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Volume 8 No 1 Spring 1987 

Grace Theological Journal 

Published Semiannually by 

Grace Theological Seminary 

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Winona Lake, IN 46590 

John C. Whitcomb, Editor 
John J. Davis, Assistant Editor 

D. Brent Sandy, Managing Editor 

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ISSN 0198-666X. Copyright © 1987 Grace Theological Seminary. All rights reserved. 



Volume 8 No 1 • Spring 1987 


Isaiah 40-55 As Anti-Babylonian Polemic 3 


Moral Conflicts and Evangelical Ethics: 
A Second Look at the Salvaging Operations 19 


A Classification of Imperatives: A Statistical Study ... 35 


Unmarried "for the Sake of the Kingdom" 
(Matthew 19:12) in the Early Church 55 


Fideism and Presuppositionalism 89 


Stephen's Speech: A Theology of Errors? 101 


A Computer Aid for Textual Criticism 115 


Seven Theological Themes in Hebrews 131 


Critical Note 141 

Another Word-Play in Amos? (daniel schmidt) 

Book Reviews (see inside back cover) 143 

tPublished posthumously 


James L. Boyer 

Grace Theological Seminary, 200 Seminary Drive, Winona Lake, 
IN 46590 

William A. Heth 

Dallas Theological Seminary, 3909 Swiss Avenue, Dallas, TX 

Rex a. Koivisto 

Multnomah School of the Bible, 8435 Northeast Glisan Street, 
Portland, OR 97220 

William F. Luck 

Lodestar Ministries, Wheaton, IL 60187 

Eugene H. Merrill 

Dallas Theological Seminary, 3909 Swiss Avenue, Dallas, TX 

Merland Ray Miller! 

c/o Mrs. Laura Mae Miller, 3201 East 33rd, Apartment 2, 
Vancouver, WA 98661 

James D. Price 

Temple Baptist Theological Seminary, 1815 Union Avenue, 
Chattanooga, TN 37404 

Daniel Schmidt 

Laurel Chapel, Box 1001, Laurel, MD 20707 

Stephen R. Spencer 

Grand Rapids Baptist Seminary, 1001 East Beltline, NE, Grand 
Rapids, MI 49505 

Grace TheologicalJoumal%.\ (1987) 3-18 

ISAIAH 40-55 AS 

Eugene H. Merrill 

Isaiah 40-55 is essentially a polemic against the theology and 
worldview of the Assyro- Babylonian culture of the Jewish exile fore- 
seen by and already at least partially contemporary to Isaiah of 
Jerusalem. This is seen in the prophet's pervasive use of polemical 
rhetorical devices borrowed largely from cuneiform language and 
literature itself These devices include rhetorical questions and self- 
predications in participial form. The peculiar effectiveness of the 
prophet's polemic lies in his defense of his own God and religious 
tradition by using ancient Near Eastern genres to demolish the claims 
of the gods of Israel's Babylonian captors. 


THOUGH there can be no doubt that the most important, over- 
riding theme of Isaiah 40-55 is that of salvation/ a major adjunct 
to that theme is the prophet's assauU upon the rehgio-cuhural struc- 
ture of the Babylonian society from which the Jewish exiles were to 
be delivered. It was necessary for them to see both the bankruptcy of 
pagan life and institutions — especially as manifest in the gods and 
cult — and, by contrast, the incomparability of their God and his 
historical and eschatological purposes for them. 

Isaiah's unremitting rhetorical attack is called "polemic." Wester- 
mann sees polemic as an aggressive element of the prophet's preach- 
ing conscripted in service of the message of salvation.^ It is a shifting 
of the contest from the battlefield to the law court for the purpose of 
demonstrating forensically that Yahweh is the Lord of history, the 
one who is able to link the past with the present and the future. 

This point was made years ago by E. J. Young, The Book of Isaiah, Vol. 3 
(NICOT; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1972) 17. 

^C. Westermann, Isaiah 40-66, A Commentary (OTL; Philadelphia: Westminster, 
1969) 15. 



Polemic is "a controversial discussion or argument: an aggressive 
attack on or the refutation of the opinions or principles of another." 
It is also "the art or practice of disputation or controversy."^ The 
only nonbiblical examples of such a literary type surviving from the 
ancient Near East are a dozen or so Sumerian and Akkadian disputa- 
tions of a fabulous nature."^ To date no others of a more judicial or 
formally forensic nature have been attested. The OT, then, is excep- 
tional, and within the OT the disputation sections of Isaiah 40-55 are 
the more fuUy developed. One may say, then, that the use of polemic 
in Isaiah 40-55 originated in Israelite soil, or, at least, not in 

There are, however, instructive insights to be gained by con- 
sidering briefly the salient features of the classical rhetoricians. This is 
not to suggest, of course, that Isaiah was influenced by them, because 
he long antedated any of them.^ But the psychological structures that 
produced the different traditions obviously had much in common.^ 

Classical Greek rhetoric was defined by Aristotle as the counter- 
part of dialectic.^ It is a subject, he said, that can be treated syste- 
matically. He saw the essence of the art of rhetoric to be the 
argumentative modes of persuasion. Any appeals to the emotion 
"warp the judgment." This suggests that rhetoric, in the classical 
sense, is another way of describing what is here meant by polemic, or 
perhaps polemic is a major form of rhetoric, a point to be made 

Kennedy,* describing classical rhetoric synthetically, finds the 
following elements: (1) invention — the subject and the arguments to 
be used in proof or refutation, these arguments consisting of: (a) direct 
evidence (witnesses, contracts, oaths), (b) evidence from history,^ and 

^P. B. Gove, ed., Webster's Third New International Dictionary (Springfield: 1971) 
1753. The etymon is Gr. 7io^e|j.eo), "make war, fight"; cf. W. F. Arndt and F. W. 
Gingrich, A Greek- English Lexicon of the New Testament, 2nd ed. (Chicago: University 
of Chicago, 1979)685. 

^S. N. Kramer, The Sumerians (Chicago: The University of Chicago, 1963) 217- 
23; W. G. Lambert, Babylonian Wisdom Literature (Oxiord: Clarendon, 1960) 150-51. 

^According to Greek tradition the art of rhetoric was invented by either Tisias or 
Corax in Syracuse between 475 and 450 B.C. See George Kennedy, The Art of Per- 
suasion in Greece (Princeton University, 1963) 26. 

'For this "structuralist" understanding of the relationship of form to common 
human psychology, see R. Knierim, "Old Testament Form Criticism Reconsidered," 
/m 27 (1963) 439-46. 

'Aristotle, "Rhetoric," 1, 1, in R. M. Hutchins, ed., Aristotle: //, vol. 9 of Great 
Books of the Western fForW (Chicago: Encyclopedia Britannica, 1952) 587. 

^Kennedy, Persuasion, 10-12. 

'The appeals to history are interesting in light of the frequent use of history as 
evidence in Isaiah 40-55; cf. 40:21; 41:8-9; 42:5-9; 43:8-13; 44:6-11; etc. 


(c) emotion, gestures, etc.; (2) arrangement, consisting of prooemium 
(introduction), narration (historical background), proof, and epilogue; 
(3) style; (4) memory; and (5) delivery. Formally or stylistically, 
rhetoric consisted of trope and scheme. '° The former, having to do 
with detailed figures of speech, usually includes metaphor, simile, 
personification, irony, hyperbole, and metonymy. Scheme, which 
refers to structure, suggests the use of allegory, parallelism, antithesis, 
congeries, apostrophe, enthymeme, and the rhetorical question. One 
can see that these can and do overlap in places. 

Aristotle, whose discussion of rhetoric was the point of departure 
thenceforth, identified three functional aspects of rhetoric: political, 
forensic, and epideictic.'' Forensic, which has to do with the court 
room, was, to him, the most important of the three. He maintained 
that such a form must have (1) accusation and defense, (2) a rehearsal 
of the past, and (3) an appeal to justice and injustice. Central in the 
argument of forensic is the enthymeme, a loose type of syllogism, 
which may take two forms: (1) demonstrative, that which is created 
by the juxtaposition of compatible propositions; and (2) refutative, 
that which is formed by the conjunction of incompatible propositions. 
The latter, he says, is better because the proof is clearer to the 

Aristotle also held that there were two general modes of per- 
suasion — example and enthymeme. His kinds of enthymeme have just 
been described. Examples could consist of historical parallels or 
invented parallels, such as illustrations or fables.*^ The appeal to the 
past was a favorite device of Isaiah, as will become apparent. 

The refutation element of forensic, which Aristotle viewed as 
being so important, could be advanced by counter-syllogism or by 
the bringing of an objection. There are four main kinds of these: 
(1) directly attacking the opponent's own statement; (2) putting for- 
ward another statement like it; (3) putting forward a statement con- 
trary to it; and (4) quoting previous decision.^'' It is striking that 
Isaiah employed some or perhaps all of these refutation techniques.'^ 

Classical rhetoric continued to find expression in the Hellenistic 
world and in Rome. Most important for this study, it was taken over 
and adapted by Jewish scholars in their apologetic against polytheism 

T. O. Sloan, The New Encyclopaedia Britannica, ed. Philip W. Goetz (Chicago: 
Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1982) 15. 700. 

"Aristotle, "Rhetoric," I, 3 (p. 587). 

"ibid., II, 22 and 23 (p. 559). 

'^Ibid., II, 20 (p. 589). Perhaps the fables of Sumerian disputation constitute just 
such examples. 

"Ibid., II, 25 (p. 589). 

'^Numbers 2 and 3 were particularly favored by the prophet who often used the 
very language of his opponents against them. 


and other deviations from post-exilic Judaism. The principal genre 
used was diatribe'^ (similar to polemic). This genre found frequent 
expression in the Haggadah where Marmorstein has suggested that it 
occurs in four types: (1) dialogues between two parties (e.g., God and 
Israel); (2) dialogues between God and individuals; (3) personification; 
and (4) response to a real or imagined objection by an opponent, 
usually introduced by "if a man say to you ..." or "anyone who 
says. ..."'' 

L. Wallach, in his study of a dispute between R. Gamaliel II and 
a pagan philosopher found in Mekilta, Massaket Bahodesh, points 
out that it represents an old sediment of the older Jewish polemic 
against idolatry. He shows that "its argumentation is the same as the 
one used since the days of the prophets and its topoi are the same as 
those employed by Hellenistic Judaism in its defense of monotheism 
against the aggressions of polytheism." ^^ Hellenistic Judaism, of 
course, drew heavily upon classical rhetorical models. 


In order for one's polemic to be effective one must understand 
the nature of his antagonist. Specifically, Isaiah needed to be inti- 
mately acquainted with both the Welt and the Weltanschauung of the 
sixth century Mesopotamian civilization.'^ It is my purpose here to 
demonstrate that by the revelation of God, Isaiah possessed such 
knowledge and to indicate the special ramifications of that fact for 
the prophet's legitimate use of polemic. 

At the outset, however, it must be stressed that caution should be 
used in establishing connections between biblical and nonbiblical 
phenomena whether literary or otherwise. For example, much of 
what is characteristic of Isaiah may find its prototypes in earlier 
Hebrew literature or may not require a Babylonian setting to explain 
its use. The very object of concern, the disputation or polemic, 
illustrates this well. Peterson reminds us that, "it is surely a vain 
enterprise to propose that Deutero-Isaiah was directly influenced by 

'*From 5iaTpi|3fi, "occasion for dwelling on a subject" (Aristotle, "Rhetoric," III, 
17 [p. 672]). 

'^A. Marmorstein, "The Background of the Haggadah," HUCA 6 (1929) 185-204. 

'*L. Wallach, "A Palestinian Polemic Against Idolatry," HUCA 19 (1946) 391. For 
another study that recognizes both the biblical and classical roots of rabbinic polemic 
see H. A. Fischel, "Story and History: Observations on Greco-Roman Rhetoric and 
Pharisaism," in AOS Middle West Branch Semi-Centennial Volume, ed. Denis Sinor 
(Oriental Series 3; Bloomington: Indiana University, 1969) 59-88. 

It is impossible here to enter into the question of the unity of Isaiah and/ or the 
predictive character of chaps. 40-55. For the standard arguments pro and con, cf. E. J. 
Young, An Introduction to the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1958) 215- 
25; O. T. Allis, The Unity of Isaiah (Philadelphia: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1950) 


Babylonian texts in those cases where he uses characteristically Baby- 
lonian terminology which was already common in pre-exilic Israelite 
literary and cultic traditions. "^° Any cosmopolitan Palestinian man of 
letters would surely have been familiar with Akkadian literary works 
and their Sumerian prototypes.^' 

At the same time, there are refinements and evidences of precision 
in the observations and descriptions of Isaiah 40-55 that require a 
familiarity, however gained, which transcends general knowledge of 
the Neo-Babylonian cultural and religious milieu. Koenig correctly 
chides those who fail to see this provenience when he says that the 
tendency to minimize or ignore the possibihty of a Babylonian 
influence is frequently observed, and this marks a regression of his- 
torical reflection with regard to the way in which authors of the 
preceding generation state the problem. ^^ He refers to the extremes to 
which Kittel went in making these direct connections but says that the 
general historical probability appears to be that indicated by Kittel. 

The exilic community, while never losing its sense of identity 
with and longing for the Palestinian homeland, nevertheless certainly 
came more and more to adapt to its new surroundings. There was 
bound to be an effect on language^^ and in such areas as technology, 
arts, and crafts that were indigenous to Mesopotamia.^'' Many years 
ago, Cassuto supported the then recent views of Kittel, Sellin, and 
Gressmann that "Deutero-Isaiah" was often influenced by Babylonian 
literary style generally and, more particularly, by the diction of the 
hymns and prayers. He concluded by suggesting that "even if all the 
particulars of these studies are not to be accepted, the fact of the 
resemblance must be regarded as completely proven in its general 
outline. "^^ 

Stephen L. Peterson, "Babylonian Literary Influence in Deutero-Isaiah" (Ph. D. 
diss., Vanderbilt University, 1975) 2. 

^'Kramer, The Sumerians, 292. 

^^J. Koenig, "Tradition iaviste et influence babylonienne a I'aurore du judaisme," 
RHR 173 (1968) 140, n. 2. 

"Y. Kaufmann, The Babylonian Captivity and Deutero-Isaiah, vol. 3 in History of 
the Religion of Israel (New York: Union of American Hebrew Congregations, 1970) 14. 

^"Cf. David Weisberg, Guild Structure and Political Allegiance in Early Achae- 
menid Mesopotamia (New Haven: Yale University, 1967) 49. Weisberg speaks of the 
detailed descriptions of craftsmen and craft techniques in Isaiah 40-55, facts which he 
says "lead us to support the conclusion that Isaiah chapters 40-55 were written by a 
man who lived in Babylon in the time of Nabonidus." Of course, the same could be 
said of one who lived in Jerusalem in 700 B.C. and saw these things by revelation or 
knew of them through cross-cultural contacts. 

^^U. Cassuto, "On the Formal and Stylistic Relationship Between Deutero-Isaiah 
and Other Biblical Writers," in Biblical and Oriental Studies, Vol. I (Jerusalem: 
Magnes, 1973) 165. See also D. W. Thomas, "The Sixth Century B.C.: A Creative 
Epoch in the History of Israel," JSS 6 (1961) 37; and A. Schoors, / Am God Your 
5av/owr (Leiden: Brill, 1973) 219. 


From a more negative standpoint, it is necessary to understand 
that the prophet viewed this exposure, on the whole, as a deleterious 
experience for the Jews, one that must be interpreted within the 
framework of the all-encompassing sovereignty of Yahweh. His city 
would be captured, its temple leveled, and its citizens carried off to a 
distant and hostile land. The pragmatist would certainly construe this 
not only as a defeat for Judah but for Judah's God. Apparently, 
Marduk was supreme after all, as one could see from the might and 
extent of the Babylonian hegemony. The message of Isaiah must 
confront these political and historical realities with the hope of salva- 
tion and restoration. And that hope must rest on a recognition of the 
superiority of Yahweh and, conversely, the impotence and even 
nonexistence of the gods of Babylon. Isaiah's polemic is the vehicle 
through which this issue could be clarified and then laid to rest. 

The message then is all relative to one event. All that the prophet 
sees and describes — nations, beasts, plants, mountains, hills, depths, 
and even heaven and earth — is tied into the experiences of the exiles. 
The whole universe is under the control of Yahweh who will deliver 
and renew his people. ^^ This is expressed in protests against the alien 
religion of their milieu and in apologetical statements about the 
oneness and absoluteness of Yahweh. This is not the first statement of 
OT monotheism,^^ but in the context of Isaiah it represents a claim 
for Yahweh in opposition to the Babylonian deities. Without that 
claim, the exiles might be prone to accept those deities along with 
Yahweh or instead of him.^^ 

One can well imagine how attractive the pomp and pageantry of 
the Babylonian cult must have been to the defeated and theologically 
troubled Jews. As Muilenburg puts it so well, "The great processions 
like those on New Year's Day, the display of the idols, the drama of 
the cult, the ancient myths, the impressive rituals, and the elaborate 
pantheon may easily have tempted not a few to abandon the ways of 
their fathers and to seek the help of such powerful gods as Marduk. "^^ 
The urgency of the prophet's appeal would indicate that the Jews' 
interest is more than academic. There was obviously a trend already 
under way to forsake their heritage and become assimilated to the 
new religious culture. ^° 

'T. A. H. de Boer, Second Isaiah's Message {OTS W; Leiden: Brill, 1956) 100. 

"See T. C. Vriezen, An Outline of Old Testament Theology (Oxford: Basil 
Blackwell, 1958) 178-79. 

^V. R. Ackroyd, Exile and Restoration: A Study of Hebrew Thought in the Sixth 
Century (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1968) 42. 

^' James Muilenburg, "The Book of Isaiah. Chapters 40-66," IDB, 5. 397. 

'°J. M. Wilkie, "Nabonidus and the Later Jewish Exiles," JTS 2 (1951) 42. Wilkie 
suggests that this is evidence of persecution but there is nothing in Isaiah 40-55 to bear 
this out. 


The religious crisis that the prophet faced had to be addressed in 
a way that would be totally convincing. As Mihelic says, "In order to 
overcome the attraction of the Babylonian ritual and the natural 
tendency of a conquered people slavishly to ape their victors, our 
poet-prophet had to present the concept of Yahweh in categories 
which would dwarf the gods of the nations from every possible angle 
of vision."^' As we have seen, from the standpoint of classical 
Aristotelian forensic rhetoric, the strategy of comparing and con- 
trasting opposing propositions is effective and persuasive. And this is 
all the more true when the protagonist uses forms and formulations 
drawn from the very inventory of his opponent! 

Gressmann was one of the first scholars to recognize that this is 
precisely what Isaiah did.^^ He understood that such borrowing poses 
a problem to modern readers who are accustomed to regard the 
prophet as a highly original and imaginative thinker not likely to 
have imitated others. But Gressmann understood correctly that the 
prophet is employing the method of contrast. Isaiah wishes to show 
that Yahweh is infinitely superior to the Babylonian gods and proceeds 
to do so by using the terminology of their mythological literature to 
deny the very gods celebrated in that literature. 

As Whybray has noted, Isaiah is particularly dependent upon the 
language and literature of the Babylonian hymns, prayers, and royal 
inscriptions." This is because these genres are filled with devices such 
as self-praise, self-predication, and rhetorical questions, all of which 
are admirably suited to the forensic, disputational style that Isaiah 
apparently found to be most effective in asserting the claims of 
Yahweh in opposition to those of the Babylonian deities. These 
devices appear throughout his composition, but are particularly 
frequent in the disputation and hymnic sections, precisely where one 
would expect them to be (see below). 


As just indicated, polemic underlies all that Isaiah 40-55 has to 
say about salvation and restoration. In the broader sense, that polemic 
assumes the structure of the trial or disputation speeches, but more 
particularly it is expressed (whether in disputation sections or else- 
where) by the techniques of rhetorical question and self-predication. 

^Joseph L. Mihelic, "The Conquest of God in Deutero-Isaiah," BR 1 1 (1966) 35. 

"H. Gressmann, Der Messias (FRLANT 26; Gottingen: Vanderhoeck und Rup- 
recht, 1929)61. 

"R. N. Whybray, The Heavenly Counsellor in Is. 40, 13-14 (SOTS, Monograph 
Series 1; Cambridge, 1971) 2. Those who have made such comparisons restrict 
themselves almost entirely to these genres. 


These appear and reappear over and over, but here we can only 
define them and give some examples.^"* 

Rhetorical Questions 

Whybray suggests there are a minimum of 72 examples of rhe- 
torical questions in the 333 verses in Isaiah 40-55, 33 of which 
employ the personal pronoun "'0.^^ And of these Yahweh refers to 
himself in 40:26; 41:2, 4; 42:24; 45:2 1/^ When followed by a noun and 
the relative lU'X or in expressions such as "who is God but . . . ," 
there is the clear implication of uniqueness. 

The most striking example, perhaps, is 45:21: 

Speak up, compare testimony — Let them even take counsel together! 

Who announced this aforetime, Foretold it of old? 

Was it not I the Lord? Then there is no god beside me, 

No God exists beside Me who foretells truly and grants success." 

With this, compare a hymn of Istar:^^ 

Who is equal to me, me? 
Who is comparable to me, me? 

Far more common is the application of rhetorical questions to the 
gods by the poets themselves. And, of course, this is true of Isaiah as 
well, where the question is not so much "who is like me?" as it is 
"who is like you (or him)?" 

In the famous interrogation of 40:12-26 the rhetorical "'?3 is used 
no fewer than six times in order to establish the incomparabihty of 
Yahweh as omniscient and omnipotent creator. By skillful comparison 

'""All the examples that follow are of rhetorical questions with a divine subject or 
self-predication. That is, they have the "I-form" in common. These are by no means the 
only polemical devices the prophet uses (second and third person uses also are employed 
effectively), but they are the most direct and perhaps most devastating in their forensic 

"The rhetorical with ''0 is frequently used by the worshipers of Yahweh elsewhere 
intheOT(Exod 15:11; Deut 3:24; 4:7; Mic7:18; Psa 35:10; 71:19; 77:14; 89:9; 113:5; 
Job 26:22) but in only one other place by Yahweh of himself (Jer 49:19 = 50:44). 
M. Smith, JAOS 83 (1963) 419, attributes "Second Isaiah's" use of the interrogative to 
Persian influences, especially the Gathas, Yasna 44, where a series of questions is asked 
of Ahura Mazda about creation. 

"Whybray, Counsellor, p. 22; cf. Exod 15:11; Deut 3:24; 4:7, 8; 5:26; 1 Sam 26:15; 
2 Sam 22:32; Jer 49:19; Isa 42:19; Psa 35:10. 

"The translation here and throughout (unless otherwise noted) is that of The 
Prophets: NevFim (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society of America, 1978). 

'^G. A. Reisner, Sumerisch-babylonisch Hymnen (MOS 10; BerUn, 1896) n. 56, 
obv. 1-3; cf. CT 15, 7-9, obv. 1-2, trans, now in ANET^, 576. 


of the work of Yahweh to that of the foreign gods, whose idols, in 
fact, must be themselves created by their worshipers, the prophet lays 
to rest the pompous claims to incomparability made by these gods 
throughout the hymnic literature. The following Akkadian hymns to 
Samas, Ninlil, and a personal god must suffice for purposes of 

Mighty, glorious son, light of the lands. 

Creator of all the totality of heaven and earth are you, Samas" 

O lady of mankind, creator of 
All things, who guides 
The whole of creation."" 

My god, holy one, creator of all peoples are you."' 

These passages are not couched in the rhetorical question form, 
though examples can certainly be adduced,'*^ but they are sufficient to 
show that the incomparability of Yahweh in creation is expressed in 
this form in Isaiah as a response to claims made by or on behalf of 
various Mesopotamian deities. 


This rhetorical device, common in the Sumerian and Akkadian 
literature, especially in the hymns of self-praise and royal inscrip- 
tions, consists, according to Dion, of nominal phrases in the parti- 
cipial predicate, where the subject is sometimes the divine name and 
sometimes the divine "I"; or else of brief propositions in which the 
imperfect translates a permanent truth alternating or not alternating 
with the participles. ""^ 

In the earliest period of cuneiform literature the formula was 
used with the gods only, mixed at times with narration in the third 

P. A. Schollmeyer, Sumerisch-babylonische Hymnen und Gebete an Samas 
(Paderborn, 1912) n. 18, obv. 8-9. 

""S. Langdon, Sumerian and Babylonian Psalms (Paris: Libraire Paul Guethner, 
1909) n. 23, obv. 7-10 (Hymn to Ninlil). 

""Lambert, JNES 33 (1974) 277, I, 55 { to a personal god). The 
prayer, however, is based on a well-known prayer to Sin (p. 270). 

"^See, e.g., IV R, 9 (Hymn to Sin), translated by A. Falkenstein in A. Falkenstein 
and W. von Soden, Sumerische und Akkadische. Hymnen und Gebete (Zurich/ Stutt- 
gart; Artemis-Verlag, 1953) n. 44, obv. 24-25; J. Bollenriicher, Gebete und Hymnen an 
Nergal, LSS 1/VI (Leipzig, 1904) n. 6; G. Perry, Hymnen und Gebete an Sin, LSS 
2/ IV (Leipzig, 1907) n. 3, 11. 54-56. 

"^H.-M. Dion, "Le genre litteraire sumerien de 1' 'hymne a soi-meme' et quelques 
passages du Deutero-Isaie," RB 74 (1967) 218. 


person. '*'' In the Old Babylonian period it was appropriated by kings 
with the "I am" followed by participial predications.'*^ This continued 
to be the practice in Akkadian texts down to the Neo-Babylonian 
period."^ Gressmann observed that "Second Isaiah" took this basic 
and abbreviated form and greatly expanded it into hymnic com- 
positions making it a major part of his literary production. ''^ And, 
Gressmann said, only "Second Isaiah," of all the biblical writers, uses 
the formula."** 

Dion lists four passages which he finds to be especially character- 
istic of this genre: 44:246-25, 26; 45:66-7; 48:126-13; 50:26-3. Others, 
more imbedded in their contexts, are 43:106y5-13; 44:66-7; 45:12, 
186, 19, 216; 46:96-10. Finally, two others, much more brief, and one 
of dubious authenticity, are 41:46; 42:8; and 51:13aa, 15, 166a. He 
also suggests, with hesitation, the possibility of this element outside of 
"Second Isaiah," namely, in Deut 32:29; 66:1a; Jer 32:27; Hosea 13:4; 
Joel 3:17; Psa 46:10; 50:10-12 (= 108:8-10).'' 

Stephen Peterson, along with other scholars, has noted that the 
"I am" form with full predications is found primarily in the trial 
speeches and the Cyrus oracle. ^"^ In one of these trial speeches, 43:22- 
28, Yahweh contends with Israel while in the others (43:8-15; 44:6-8; 
44:21-22; 45:20-25) the dispute is with the foreign nations and/ or 
their gods. It is unusual to find the hymn of self-praise in a trial 
speech form but, as Peterson points out, "this prophet has intention- 
ally adapted a Babylonian hymn to function as the verdict in the trial 
speech. The appropriateness of this adaptation is apparent from the 
perspective that the trial speeches in question are between Yahweh 
and foreign nations and gods."^' 

This is not to say that every "I am" form is a self-predication in 
the Babylonian form. Westermann shows that "Second Isaiah" com- 
bines two different types of the form, which have two different 

"''For an important study of the "I am" formula, see W. Zimmerli, "Ich bin 
Jahwe," Gottes Offenbarung {Miinchcn: Kaiser, 1963) 11-40. 

"^Sumerian royal inscriptions, such as votive or dedicatory texts, contained royal 
names with many titles and epithets, but the predication took the form of finite 
transitive verbs. See W. W. Hallo, "The Royal Inscriptions of Ur: A Typology," 
HUCA 33 (1962) 15-22. 

See Eduard Norden, Agnostos Theos: Untersuchungen zur Formengeschichte 
religioser Rede (1913; reprint, Stuttgart: Teubner, 1956) 92. 

"^H. Gressmann, "Die literarische Analyse Deuterojesajas," ZAW 34 (1914) 285- 
95. The passages he identified as hymnic self-predication are 41:44ff.; 42:8ff.; 43:1 Iff.; 
44:5ff.; 45:3fF., ISff.; 46:9ff.; 48:1 Iff., I7ff.; 49:26; 50:2; and 51:5. 

''ibid., 290. 

'*^Dion, "Le genre litteraire sumerien," 217. 

^"Peterson, "Babylonian Literary Influence," 124. 

"Ibid., 124-25. 


origins." One always is connected to a word of salvation which, in 
Isaiah 40-55, usually occurs in the oracles of salvation genre (41:10, 
13, \4b; 43:3) or in other words of salvation (4l:llb; 43:25; 46:4; 
48:17; 49:23; 51:12). This type finds its roots in Israel itself as can be 
seen in Gen 15:1, 7; 26:24; 28:13; 46:3; 17:lff; 35:1 IflF.; Exod 3:6ff; 
etc." The other type is the true self-predication or self-glorification 
and as such is a type of praise. As Westermann suggests, "Deutero- 
Isaiah" was the first in Israel to show God glorifying himself in this 
way. "He took over this non-Israelite, and obviously Babylonian, 
form with the deliberate polemical purpose of contrasting Israel's 
God as the one God with the foreign gods who vaunted their power 
and might against each other. "^'' 

In these respective types of the "I am" formula the self- 
predications serve different functions. The indigenous Israelite style 
serves in the salvation oracle as the basis for the announcement of 
salvation. Hymnic expansions of the formula in this type express 
Yahweh's saving relationship to Israel. In the trial and disputation 
speeches, however, the self-predication distinguishes Yahweh from 
other gods in polemic fashion. Often it makes the assertion that there 
is no other God but Yahweh (43:11, 12-13; 45:18, 21; 46:9)." Usually 
the native form is much more brief, but that which is adapted from 
the Babylonian style is greatly expanded with relative clauses and 
participial phrases as predicates, a formula characteristic of Isaiah 

The assumption is, then, that the expanded form of self- 
predication characteristic of Isaiah is an adaptation of the Sumerian- 
Akkadian style with which the prophet would have been famihar. 
This seems almost certain given the virtual absence of this hymn type 
in other Hebrew literature and its prevalence throughout cuneiform 
hymnic and other genres of liter ature.^^ 

Westermann, Isaiah, 26. 
'See P.-E. Dion. "The 
'Oracle of Salvation'" CBQ 29 (1967) 198-206. Cf. also C. Westermann, Basic Forms 
of Prophetic Speech, trans. H. C. White (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1967) 125. He 
points out that self-predication occurs already at Mari so that self-predication as a 
prophetic device goes back to an early, if non-Israelite, setting. 

^''Westermann, Isaiah, 26. A good example of a self-predication of Marduk, which 
Meier says, "appeared to have carried no little weight in the wisdom schools of 
Sargonic times" (my translation from the German), has been published by G. Meier, 
"Ein Kommentar zu einer Selbstpradikation des Marduk aus Assur," ZA 47 (1942) 

"R. F. Melugin, "The Structure of Deutero-Isaiah" (Ph.D. diss.. New Haven: 
Yale University, 1968)41. 

^'Westermann, Isaiah, 156. Not all scholars accept this, of course. M. L. Phillips, 
"Divine Self-Predication in Deutero-Isaiah," BR 16 (1971) 35, argues that the source of 


Dion, in a study previously cited, picked up on ideas developed 
by Norden and Gressmann, and attempted to show that the use of 
self-predication in the typical Isaianic form must be traced back 
ultimately to the Sumerian "hymns to oneself."" He lists eleven 
examples of these and concludes after studying them that all the 
pieces he had examined take the form of hymns in the first person, 
the divine "I" being repeated in them with almost wearisome per- 
sistence.^^ He then outHnes the following characteristic structure: 
proclamation of names and epithets; the position of the god in the 
pantheon, especially his relationship with the great gods; his beneficial 
and destructive powers over men and the universe, including enemy 
lands; and usually a reference to the number and importance of the 
sanctuaries over which he rules. 

Two examples each from Isaiah and the Sumerian sources will 
suffice for now. The first is the short form found in the oracle of 
salvation in Isa 43:1-7. 

But now thus said the Lord 
Who created you, O Jacob, 
Who formed you, O Israel: 
Fear not, for I will redeem you; 
I have singled you out by name. 
You are mine. 

When you pass through water, 

I will be with you; 

Through streams 

They shall not overwhelm you. 

When you walk through fire. 

You shall not be scorched; 

Through flame. 

It shall not burn you. 

For I the Lord am your God, 
The Holy One of Israel, your Savior, 
I give Egypt as a ransom for you, 
Ethiopia and Saba in exchange for you. 

Because you are precious to me. 
And honored, and I love you, 
I give men in exchange for you 
And peoples in your stead. 

the expanded self-predication, which he admits is unique to "Second Isaiah," must be 
sought not in Babylonian inspiration but in the covenant tradition of Israel. 

"Dion, "Le genre litteraire sumerien,"(1967). 

^^Ibid., 223; the examples he gives are on p. 222, n. 36. 


Fear not, for I am with you: 

I will bring your folk from the East, 

Will gather you out of the West; 

I will say to the North, "Give back!" 

And to the South, "Do not withhold!" 

Bring My sons from afar. 

And my daughters from the end of the earth — 

All who are linked to My name, 

Whom I have created. 

Formed, and made for My glory. 

Most scholars see this oracle of salvation as a piece made up of 
two shorter ones (1-4, 5-7) but combined by the prophet into one 
unit. It may be analyzed as follows: 

Introduction la 

Assurance of salvation Iba, 5aa 

Nominal substantiation \bS, Safi 

Verbal substantiation Ib^ya 

• Outcome 2-4, 56-7 

The self-predications appear in the introduction in the participial 
forms "11X3 and "[IS"' and in v 3 where Yahweh describes himself as 
*l''n'?X and 1i7"'U710 biil^^ mip . These brief ascriptions are, of course, 
not unique to Isaiah and can hardly be said to be dependent on 
Babylonian analogues. ^^ 

In the disputation texts, however, there appears the expanded 
self-predication, an example of which is 44:24-28: 

Thus said the Lord, your Redeemer, 
Who formed you in the womb: 
It is I, the Lord, who made everything. 
Who alone stretched out the heavens 
And unaided spread out the earth; 

Who annul the omens of diviners. 

And make fools of the augurs: 

Who turn sages back 

And make nonsense of their knowledge; 

But confirm the word of My servant 

And fulfill the prediction of my messengers. 

It is I who say of Jerusalem, "It shall be inhabited," 

And of the towns of Judah, "They shall be rebuilt"; 

''Note, for example, the frequent uses of participial X13 outside Isaiah as cited by 
Paul Humbert, "Emploi et portee du verbe bara (creer) dans I'Ancien Testament," TZ 3 


(I,) who said to the deep, "Be dry; 
I will dry up your floods," 

Am the same who says of Cyrus, "He is my Shepherd; 
He shall fulfill all my purposes! 
He shall say of Jerusalem, 'She shall be rebuilt,' 
And to the Temple: 'You shall be founded again.'" 

Though this pericope forms the introduction to what is commonly 
called the "Cyrus Oracle," it is by itself cast in the form of a hymnic 
self-predication. ^° But its intent is clearly that of disputation as 
Schoors has demonstrated.^' In other words, it is an excellent example 
of the use of expanded self-predication as the basis for establishing 
the credentials of the accuser, in this case Yahweh. 

Gressmann recognized only the hymnic quality of the section and 
pointed out the fact that it consists almost entirely of a series of 
participles following the divine name in the messenger formula, "Thus 
said the LORD."^^ It is in its entirety, he said, a Selbsprddikation. 
Within this relatively brief poem of about 20 lines there are at least 
eleven participial ascriptions to Yahweh involving nine different 
verbs. ^^ These demonstrate the awesome power and wisdom of God 
as creator (24), predictor (25-26), and redeemer (27-28). 

Turning now to the cuneiform literature, there is a Sumerian 
hymn of self-praise, a genre far more common in Sumerian than 
Akkadian.^"* The following is the translation of an Inanna Hymn" by 
W. H. P. Romer:'' 

8 Mein Vater hat mir den Himmel gegeben, 

hat mir die Erde gegeben, 

9 ich — die Himmelsherrin bin ich, 
10 misst sich einer, ein Gott mit mir? 

Westermann, Isaiah, 154-55, refers to the passage as a descriptive hymn of praise 
in the first person of self-glorification. 

^'Schoors, Saviour, l(fl-13). He bases his argument on the presence of the 
messenger formula (24a) and the similarity of the passage to the disputation of 

"H. Gressmann, "Die literarische Analyse Deuterojesajas," 289-90. 

"The following verbs appear: nax (44:26, 27, 28); VkJ (24); ir (24); nU3 (24); 7W11 
(24); S7pn (24); 11D (25); Dip (26); miy (25). Five of these occur in v 24 alone! 

^'So E. Reiner, "A Sumero-Akkadian Hymn of Nana," JNES 33 (1974) 221. She 
cites as Akkadian examples an Old Babylonian self-praise of Istar {VAS 10, 213 = 
SAHG, 381, n. 3), "Marduk's address to the Demons" (Lambert, AfO 17 [1957-58] 
3I0ff.; 19 [1959-60] 1 14-19), and the Gula Hymn of Bullutsa-rabi, discussed below. 

"F/15 10, n. 199, HI 8-31; published by H. Zimmern, Sumerischen Kultlieder aus 
altbabylonischer Zeit (Leipzig, 1913). 

**W. H. P. Romer, "Eine sumerische Hymne mit Selbstlob Inannas," Or, n.s. 38 


1 1 Mullil hat mir den Himmel gegeben 

<hat inir> die Erde <gegeben> 

12 ich — <die Himmelsherrin bin ich>. 

13 Die Herrenschaft hat er mir gegeben, 

14 die Herrinnenschaft hat er mir gegeben 

15 den Kampf hat er mir gegeben, die [Schla]cht? 

<hat er> mir <gegeben>, 

16 die Flut hat er mir gegeben, den [wi]r belwind (?) 

<hat er> mir <gegeben>, 

17 Den Himmel hat er als Kappe auf mein 

Haupt gesetzt, 

18 die Erde als Sandale an meinen Fuss gebunden, 

19 den reinen Gottermantel an meinen Leib gebunden, 

20 das reine Szepter in meine Hand gelegt. 

Though the style of these lines is not participial, it is certainly 
self-predicative. One might well assume that the traditional self- 
introduction ("I am") with a following string of names and epithets 
made up the lacunae. And probably these took the form of appos- 
itional nominatives or participles.^'' The "I am" does survive in lines 9 
and 12. 

An Akkadian example is the Gula hymn of Bullutsa-rabi, a 
composition that probably dates from the Persian period.^* In the 
first 187 of a total of 200 lines the goddess Gula speaks. In the 
opening section the deity introduces herself with participles, nominal 
clauses, and several statives. The passage reads as follows: 

1 The goddess, the most powerful of all deities that reside in shrines — 

2 I am an aristocrat, I am a lady, I am resplendent, I am exalted, 

3 My location is lofty, I am feminine, I have dignity, 

4 I excel among the goddesses. 

5 In heaven my star is great, my name in the underworld, 

6 Mention of me is sweet — men discourse on 

7 Sound health and the healing touch, 

8 My great name is Nintinugga. 

The remainder of the hymn consists of alternating sections in which 
the goddess praises herself and then her spouse. Bullutsa-rabi is 

This is the form taken by other Sumerian hymns of this type. See Falkenstein, 
SAHG, n. 24 ("A Sulgi Hymn") in which 11. 1-19 are the "I am" section, following 
which are statements with finite verbs; and so throughout the Sulgi hymns (Castellino, 
Two Sulgi Hymns [BC] Studi Semitici 42 [Roma: Universita di Roma, 1972] B, 11-12, 
82, 119-21; C, 1-6). For the structure of this form, see von Soden, "Hymne," RLA 4 

''W. G. Lambert, "The Gula Hymn of Bullutsa-rabi," Or 36 (1967) 105-32. 
Lambert suggests a date for its original composition between 1400 and 700 B.C. 
(p. 109). 


an individual on whose behalf prayer is made in the last section 
(11. 188-200) to the two deities. As we indicated above, the Akkadian 
exemplars of the self-praise are limited to only three or four, though, 
of course, the hymns and prayers in the second and third person are 
very common. 


The preceding, on which little comment has been made, are 
sufficient to show that the self-predication formula is attested in both 
Sumerian and Akkadian hymnic literature as well as in Isaiah. And 
since it is lacking elsewhere in Hebrew literature (with the exceptions 
already noted) one must allow the possibility at least that Isaiah 
appropriated and adapted this particular literary vehicle as a heuristic 
and polemical device with which to exalt and praise Yahweh in 
opposition to the gods of Babylon. It seems that one must agree with 
Dion's assessment when he says that the concrete example of this 
borrowing by the prophet may help us to appreciate better the 
marvelous power of assimilation by which the Word of the living God 
always utilizes to its own ends the ancient religious heritage of 
humanity. Indeed, the prophet of Yahweh does not hesitate to benefit 
from authentic resources of the pagan milieu in which he finds himself. 
A master himself of ancient eloquence, he seizes well the majesty and 
power of persuasion of discourse by which gods and kings generally 
reveal their splendor in the Orient. He adopts therefore this method, 
up to that time unused in Israel, and uses it in the service of the good 
news concerning the Creator and Savior. ^^ Without doubt, the most 
effective polemic is that in which the protagonist (mis)uses the argu- 
ments of his adversary and does so by a sarcastic, mocking use of the 
very language of his opponent. Much more of this could, without 
question, be communicated by the special nuances that are possible to 
oral discourse. But no one of the exilic community could fail to be 
impressed by the subtleties as well as the overt expression of the 
prophet as he attempted to demonstrate to them the incomparability 
of their God. 

Dion, "Le genre litteraire sumerien," 233-34. 

Grace TheologicalJournal S.l (1987) 19-34 





William F. Luck 

Many evangelical ethicists have rightly reacted to Joseph Flet- 
cher's situationalism while wrongly choosing the ground from which 
to respond. Having conceded to Fletcher the reality of moral conflict 
among the laws of God, these ethicists must embrace incoherent 
ethical systems that deal with the wrongly imported moral conflict by 
introducing what amounts to a situationalism of their own. In par- 
ticular, examination of the greater good alternative of Norman Geisler 
and the lesser evil alternative of Erwin Lutzer reveals their failure to 
avoid situationalism. Their failure substantiates the concept that one 
cannot have a coherent plural absolutism and yet admit to the con- 
flict of (absolute) moral rules. Since the Scriptures stand solidly 
behind the presence of a plurality of absolute moral rules, the evan- 
gelical ethicist must reject the possibility of real moral conflict. 


JOSEPH Fletcher thought that he had exposed the folly of any 
system of morality that was composed of more than one universal 
obligation. In his Situation Ethics, he argued that traditional, ortho- 
dox morality (which he called "legalism") entangled itself in its own 
rules.' Said Fletcher, 

as statutes are applied to actual situations, something has to give; some 
latitude is necessary for doubtful or perplexed consciences. Inexorably, 
questions arise as to whether in a particular case the law truly applies 

Joseph Fletcher, Situation Ethics: the New Morality (Philadelphia: Westminster, 
1966) 123. 


(doubt), or as to which of several more or less conflicting laws is to be 
followed (perplexity).^ 

"Nothing in the world causes so much conflict of conscience," con- 
tinued Fletcher, "as the continual, conventional payment of lip ser- 
vice to moral 'laws' that are constantly flouted in practice because 
they are too petty or too rigid to fit the facts of life."^ 

To illustrate the inadequacies of multi-ruled morality, Fletcher 
strewed his pages with case studies of "perplexity" which he called the 
"penumbra.""^ And he concluded from their presentation that, "prefab 
code morality gets exposed as a kind of neurotic security device to 
simplify moral decisions."^ 

Following the publication of Fletcher's Situation Ethics, there 
was a flurry of activity on the part of Evangelicals. Most of their 
concern centered around the confutation of Fletcher's positive pro- 
posal: situationism. But the negative challenge of Fletcher was largely 
ignored, perhaps because Evangelicals felt that doubt and perplexity 
of conscience were by-products of the fallen state of the world, and 
therefore insufficient to call divine obligation into question. Yet in 
ignoring the question of the conflict of conscience, Evangelicals were 
also ignoring the challenge that their ethics is incoherent or inconsis- 
tent when it tries to comprehend the ethical "gray areas" that perplex 
the conscience. They failed to see the full thrust of Fletcher's argu- 
ment, namely, plural (absolute) rules + their conflict in application = 
an incoherent (and therefore unacceptable) system. Were Evangelicals 
blasting Fletcher's system without defending their own? Could it be 
that the battle against situationalism, eff"ective as it was, was being 
fought from the wreckage of the sunken ship of traditional morality? 

In the early 1970s several evangelical scholars concluded that 
Fletcher's torpedoes of moral conflict had indeed severely damaged 
the usual (if not traditional) evangelical ethical ship. These Evan- 
gelicals reiterated their acceptance of a system of plural universal 
rules and agreed with Fletcher that in this sinful and fallen world 
those rules sometimes come into conflict. These scholars began to 
reconstruct the ethical ship, and from their salvaging operations two 
distinct methodologies soon appeared in print. The first way to sal- 
vage evangelical ethics is known as hierarchicalism or the greater of 
goods alternative. Its major exponent has been Norman L. Geisler 
who set forth his position in three books {Ethics: Alternatives and 
Issues, The Christian Ethics of Love, and Options in Contemporary 

'ibid., 21. 
'Ibid., 137-38. 
'Ibid., 135. 
^Ibid., 137. 

luck: moral conflicts and evangelical ethics 21 

Christian Ethics), and an article ("Biblical Absolutes and Moral 

The second system is called ideal absolutism or the lesser of evils 
alternative. Although this second view was set forth and rejected by 
Geisler, it was adopted by Erwin Lutzer {Morality Gap: An Evan- 
gelical Response to Situation Ethics)' and John Warwick Montgomery 
{Situation Ethics, True or False)^ 

Elsewhere I have argued that both of these positions are invalid 
due to equivocation with regard to the crucial concept of moral 
conflict.^ I argued that the only kind of moral conflict which need 
concern Evangelicals is the kind where one law of God requires an 
action that another law of God prohibits. Cases of alleged moral 
conflict were analyzed (especially those from the Bible) and it was 
found that in all cases it was possible to act in a way that did not 
violate a command. Thus it was concluded that salvaging operations 
such as Geisler's and Montgomery's were not necessary since their 
basic premise that God's laws actually foster moral conflict was open 
to question. My purpose here is to show how both these systems come 
to ruin because they accept the alleged reality of moral conflicts. 

THE greater good ALTERNATIVE 

Geisler sets forth his view as follows: 

Love is never caught on the horns of a dilemma. There are levels and 
spheres of love and one is always higher than another. Each love 
command is absolute in its area. But when that area overlaps with 
another area, then the lower responsibility of love should be sub- 
ordinated to the higher. . . . Each of the absolute commandments of 
the Bible is absolutely binding on the relationship it specifies. There are 
no exceptions. . . . However, when one of these relationships, which are 
wrong in themselves, overlaps with another area, then one's duty to the 
lower may be suspended in view of his responsibility to do the higher. 
There are no exceptions to absolute commands but there are some 

''Ethics: Alternatives and Issues (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1971); The Christian 
Ethic of Love (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1973); Options in Contemporary Christian 
Ethics (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1981); and "Biblical Absolutes and Moral Conflicts," 
fiSac 131 (1974) 219-28. 

^Morality Gap: An EvangeUcal Response to Situation Ethics (Chicago: Moody, 
1972). Lutzer has since, privately, abandoned this position. 

^Joseph Fletcher and John Warwick Montgomery, Situation Ethics, True or False 
(Minneapolis: Bethany, 1972). 

'WiUiam F. Luck, "Ethical Decisions: Non-Conflicting Absolutism" (unpublished 
paper presented at the spring meeting of the midwestern section of the Evangelical 
Theological Society [1974]). 


exceptions (sic) in view of higher priorities of love. There is always a 
greater good."^ 

At first blush this system seems splendid. It is not so naive that it 
refuses to accept alleged moral conflicts that Scripture and experience 
"amply manifest." It is not so unscriptural as to deny the plurality of 
commandments. And it offers its followers a way to act in conflict so 
as not to be guilty of breaking a commandment. In short, Geisler 
seems to accept both of Fletcher's premises (multiple commandments 
and conflicts) and yet deny his conclusion (normative incoherence). 
How does Geisler do it? 

He does it with linguistic mirrors. How can anyone resolve an 
irresolvable conflict of laws (one requiring what another prohibits)? A 
moral conflict, like an ordinary language dilemma, that can be 
resolved is not really a moral conflict in the first place. It may have 
seemed to the perplexed and unreflective mind to be a real conflict, 
but reflection reveals that there is a way of escape. If there is a way to 
resolve the moral conflict on the normative level, then the conflict is 
only apparent. 

This can be put another way. Without irresolvable conflict there 
is no need to devise a methodology to handle conflict. On the other 
hand, if it is irresolvable then no method can be devised that will 
resolve the normative incoherence. Since Geisler's resolution involves 
the exempting of obligation, it is a normative resolution and therefore 
reveals that the supposed conflict of norms cannot have been irresolv- 
able in the first place. And since resolvable conflicts are only prima 
facie conflicts, Geisler cannot really be serious about being a conflict 
theorist. He must be a cripto-non-conflicting absolutist. 

If all this is so obvious, how has Geisler's hierarchicalism managed 
to stay afloat? The answer lies in Geisler's use of "linguistic mirrors." 
The impression is given that both of the conflicting rules do apply 
throughout the situation while the obligation of one of them is not 
binding upon the person in the situation. Thus, according to the 
methodology, there are two kinds of rules: those that both apply to 
the situation and bind the person in the situation and rules that apply 
to the situation but do not bind the person in the situation. It is the 
latter of these rules (which Geisler refers to as the "lower law") that 
is analytically improper. There simply is no such thing as a non- 
binding, yet applicable moral rule. Obligation is part of the denota- 
tive meaning of a rule or law. A rule is a statement of obligation. 
Remove the obligation and you are left with a string of words or at 
most a descriptive sentence, but not a moral rule. 

At this point the hierarchicalist may protest that his system never 
completely eliminates the obligation of either of the conflicting laws. 

'"Geisler, "Biblical Absolutes," p. 226. The second "exceptions" should read 
"exemptions." It was a typographical error according to Geisler. 

luck: moral conflicts and evangelical ethics 23 

He will protest that the obligation of the lower rule is superseded but 
not eliminated or abolished.'' He will no doubt suggest an analogy 
from Newtonian physics: 

To borrow an illustration from the natural realm, there are no excep- 
tions to the law of gravity for physical bodies but a nail may be exempt 
from "obeying" the law of gravity by its "obedience" to the higher 
physical force of a magnet.'^ 

In other words, the lower of the conflicting rules retains its obliga- 
tion, it is just that that obligation is not as strong as the obligation of 
the higher of the conflicting laws. 

The problem here is that the hierarchicalist has been led astray 
by a poor analogy. The force of gravity is measurable, but moral 
obligation is not. It is a wrong way of speaking, for example, to say, 
"We are more obligated to love God than men." We should say, "We 
are obligated to love God more than men." A rule either obliges or it 
does not. There are no degrees of obligation. 

But even if there were such a thing as a stronger law conflicting 
with a weaker law, the illustration actually undermines hierarchical- 
ism. For if the weaker law is binding in the situation at all, then for it 
to be ignored is for it to have been disobeyed. And, if in a situation of 
conflict one of the laws has to be disobeyed, then guilt is incurred and 
the choice of the "greater good" is at one and the same time the 
choice of the "lesser evil." The obedience of the higher law is the 
disobedience of the lower law. And this is the very coherence problem 
that Fletcher waved at the old system. In short, if both commands 
bind, then their conflict is normative incoherence. If one of the 
commands does not bind, then there is no conflict (see Appendix A). 

Thus, it is evident that the hierarchical system cannot get where 
it wants to go. If it alters the obligation, it resolves the irresolvable 
conflict by denying the conflict. If it does not alter the obligation, it 
retains normative incoherence. Hierarchicalism is indeed caught be- 
tween a rock and a hard place. The system has to move one way or 
the other. Either it has to deny the reality of moral conflict or it has 
to accept the charge of being an incoherent system. Insofar as the 
theory pretends normatively to resolve'^ the irresolvable,''* it is ana- 
lytically absurd.'^ 

While the above criticism raises doubt as to whether or not 
hierarchicalism really accepts moral conflicts, a second criticism raises 

"Geisler, £?/zjcj, 130. 
'^Ibid., 19. 
"Cf. ibid., 72, 134. 
"Ibid., 118. 

'^In Options (p. 99) Geisler attempts to answer this criticism by explaining what he 
meant by "irresolvable" in Ethics (p. 118). It is certainly proper for him to clarify what 


the question whether or not the method allows its proponents to 
accept more than one universal moral rule. By definition, an absolute 
rule is a rule that does not admit of exceptions. That is to say that 
there is no condition under which an absolute rule is not binding.'^ In 
the case of moral conflicts, Geisler does not argue that one "absolute" 
rule has an exception, but that the person facing the conflict is 

he "really" meant, and to show where he may have been misunderstood. However, his 
clarification is, unfortunately, a study in shifting linguistic sand. In his first paragraph 
he offers as synonyms for "irresolvable" the terms "real" and "inevitable." Using these 
he belittles his Critics by saying that they cannot be serious in suggesting that a conflict 
that can be "ultimately resolved" is not "real and inevitable." But then that was not the 
criticism. Geisler is the one who used the terms "irresolvable" and "resolvable." If he 
equivocates he can hardly hold his critics responsible, but he makes it worse by 
confusing his own meanings in Ethics. In that book on p. 118, it is clear that Geisler 
does not mean either real or inevitable by "irresolvable." The issue there is not whether 
the conflict is real or inevitable, but whether it can be resolved by showing one of the 
alleged duties to be not applicable or both able to be obeyed at the same time. That is 
the meaning Geisler gives to "irresolvable" in paragraph two, and that is the meaning 
assumed in the criticism. The issue is not whether a real conflict can be resolved or 
whether an inevitable conflict can ultimately be resolved. No one denied that there are 
real conflicts such as that between good and evil, but then it is not proper to use a word 
like "irresolvable" of such a conflict. If Geisler has made a bad choice of terms in 
Ethics, his critics can hardly be blamed for taking his word according to its normal use. 

But this too is not the issue, for given Geisler's second paragraph definition of 
"irresolvable," it seems that he did not make a mistake in choosing the term to describe 
what he sees as the essence of the nature of the conflict. Says he, "We say that the 
conflict was 'irresolvable' only in the sense that there was no 'give' in the force of the 
commands. Neither law 'backed down'; both continued to demand with the same 
absoluteness that is theirs by virtue of their grounding in God" {Options, p. 99). That is 
what is meant in this paper by "normative" irresolvability. In other words, one cannot 
find a way to understand one or both of the commands not to be binding and applying 
in the situation. But then Geisler proceeds to tell us that, "God intervenes in love and 
exempts a man from the demands of a command which cannot be kept without 
breaking a higher command." In other words, God removed the demand so that it does 
not have the same absoluteness that it had by virtue of its grounding in his nature. 
Note that while this is close to saying that God simply does not hold us guilty for not 
keeping the lesser demand, Geisler must steadfastly deny that it is only a matter of 
removed guilt. He must say that it is the "demands" that are exempted. He insists on a 
"normative" resolution, not just //a? forgiveness. If there is no normative resolution, 
then the commands remain in normative conflict. If this is the result, Fletcher is right 
and Geisler is just a conflicting absolutist with an easy as well as a forgiving God. On 
the other hand, since Geisler admits that there is a normative resolution (the exempting 
process) he reveals that he is not logically serious about the conflict having been other 
than prima facie in the first place. If this is the case, then Geisler is simply a confused 
non-conflicting absolutist. The latter is probably the case. In any case, the critic does 
not deny that there are real prima facie conflicts of norms (i.e., conflicting general 
rules), but only that Geisler is surely wrong in insisting on non-prima facie conflict of 
duty that can be normatively resolved. 

"Cf. Geisler, Ethics, 131: "the absolute norms always apply; there are no 

luck: moral conflicts and evangelical ethics 25 

exempt from the obligation to obey the lower "absolute" rule. The 
reason for the exemption is the presence of a higher "absolute" rule. In 
other words, the presence of a higher rule creates a condition in 
which the lower rule does not apply. Thus, it is seen that there is a 
condition in which the lower rule does not apply. Hence, the lower 
rule cannot be an absolute, and exemption and exception are two 
sides of the same coin. 

Since in the hierarchicalist system all laws lower than the highest 
law are laws subject to an exempting process, only one law in the 
hierarchicalist system can be an absolute (see Appendix B). As such it 
is unacceptable to Evangelicals who find that Scripture teaches the 
plurality of absolutes. Geisler himself asserts this.'^ And it is interest- 
ing that in order to make the system acceptable to himself and others, 
Geisler resorts to coining such terms as "contextual absolutism" and 
"local universals."'^ These terms only obscure this important fact: 
since not all of the Ten Commandments can be the "highest law" on 
the hierarchy, only one of them can be an absolute.'^ And, if they are 
not absolutes, what are they? Well, at best they are general rules, at 
worst they are mere maxims. Evangelicals cannot accept such an 

Though Geisler's hierarchicalism claims many absolute moral 
rules, it can have only one. His attempts to argue otherwise reveal, 

''ibid., 74ff. Geisler's system is not like Fletcher's single absolutism, since Fletcher's 
absolute (love) is formal and Geisler's is substantive. 

"Ibid., 132. 

"Geisler ("Biblical Absolutes," [p. 227]), notes the "hierarchy of the Ten Com- 
mandments," but denies that such a hierarchy leaves at least nine commandments mere 
general rules. 

^"Geisler realizes that his system is open to criticism on this point. In Ethics he 
returns to the issue several times, apparently never really satisfying himself (cf. p. 132). 
And in "Biblical Absolutes" he found it necessary to bolster the sagging point with 
three new arguments (cf. p. 227). Each of these arguments is designed to show how 
lower-than-highest laws can justifiably be called "absolutes." First, he says, "they are 
absolutely binding as such on the particular relationship toward which they are 
directed." This means that they are absolutely binding when not in conflict with a 
higher rule. But any general rule is binding as such, but not binding when it comes to a 
situation that includes an exempting-condition. Second, he says, "when there is a 
conflict, it is an absolutely binding ethical obligation to follow the higher law revealed 
by God in His Word." But this is a non sequitur. The obligation to follow the higher 
law is a rule-governing rule. The fact that the rule-governing rule is absolute does not 
in the slightest make any of the rules that it governs absolutes. Third, Geisler says, 
"implied in the above is the truth that God has established absolutely the very order of 
commandments based upon their proximity to His very nature as holy and loving." 
This also is a non sequitur. The fact that the order of rules is absolute does not make 
each rule absolute. None of these arguments establishes that lower laws are absolutes. 
At best they establish that Geisler's form of absolutism has only one absolute. For a 
similar criticism, cf. Lutzer, Morality Gap, 102ff. 


upon analysis, an unacceptable one-absolute absolutism that would 
at times annul even the greater of the commandments.^^ 

There are many more criticisms^^ against this salvaging opera- 
tion. It is, however, sufficient to have shown that the system is self- 
contradictory. Furthermore, restatements of the system fare no better 
than its original formulation. 

"Cf. Matthew 5:19. 

^^The following are some of the other criticisms that could be developed more. 
(1) The Scripture rejects any attempt to excuse non-compliance with lower rules on the 
basis of higher rules (cf. Matthew 5:19; 23:23; etc.). (2) Hierarchicalism is based upon 
an inadequate, neoplatonic (thing-centered) axiology in which values are nonmoral (cf. 
Ethics, pp. 115ff.); with this axiology there is no way, e.g., to show whether lying is 
more or less valuable an act. (3) The hierarchy of laws is said to represent a hierarchy 
of values. Geisler never offers his readers a list of either. Instead, he gives two slightly 
different lists of principles by which the reader evidently is to draw up his own lists. But 
the principles themselves need to be hierarchically arranged before they are useful. All 
this tells the reader that it is most difficult — if not impossible — to determine what the 
greater-good is (cf. Ethics, 115-21; and Love, 1(3-^1). This criticism reveals that 
hierarchicalism is impractical. (4) The system claims to be a pure deontology (duty 
centered ethics), but it seems actually to be a crypto-teleology (consequence ethics). 
What the hierarchicalist has done is to locate the nonmoral conditions that make 
situations (consequences) good, hinted at their hierarchical order (the order of intrinsic 
values), and stated that there must be a hierarchy of laws that represents the hierarchy 
of values (cf. Ethics, 114-15). But in a truly deontological system, the rules themselves 
have moral value. In Geisler's system the rules have only relative (moral?) value. In 
short, Geisler is really more concerned about the production of nonmoral good 
consequences than he is about the following of moral rules. The rules are always 
subordinate to the principles which identify good consequences. This is true of all 
teleologies. Consider the sad case of the rule not to bear false witness {Ethics, 18, and 
"Biblical Absolutes," 226). For Geisler, a false witness, which is prohibited by a 
commandment, is said to be a good action if it is done "for the sake of life-saving." 
Unless Geisler is a motivist (which type of ethical thinking he rejects [cf. Ethics, 22]), he 
is saying that the action of lying is sometimes a good (when it contributes to the saving 
of life) and sometimes wrong (whenever life-saving is not at issue). In other words, 
lying is a relative good and the command not to lie is a relative command. The 
rightness or wrongness is determined by the situation (and consequences) and not by 
the rule. Put another way, lying is a contributory good (cf. W. Frankana's Ethics) but 
not an intrinsic wrong. (In fact, is it possible for a neoplatonic thinker to be serious 
about intrinsic wrong?) Geisler, then, is at best an inconsistent "rule-utilitarian." Part 
of the problem in pinning Geisler down on this issue is that he is resolving two very 
different types of conflict (see my "Ethical Decisions," where it is argued that alleged 
instances of moral conflict are either contingency conflicts [where the breach of one law 
only leads to the keeping of another law] or necessary conflicts [where the breach of 
one law is the keeping of another law]). In that paper it was held that none of the latter 
type had been found. Geisler himself makes such a distinction in Ethics, 94-95. Most 
of the time Geisler is dealing with the former type which are always resolved by 
teleological calculations. The rest of the time he is simply confused, and does not see 
that one of the supposedly conflicting rules is not an absolute. For a similar criticism, 
cf. Lutzer, Morality Gap, 104. (5) The concept of a hierarchy is incompatible with the 
concept of the conflict of rules. Rules on one level can only conflict with rules on the 

luck: moral conflicts and evangelical ethics 27 

THE lesser-evil ALTERNATIVE 

Lutzer's formulation of the basic argument of the lesser of evils 
position is as follows: 

the majority of genuine moral conflicts arise because of previous sinful 
actions. A man may make a foolish vow to kill another man. Now he is 
forced either to break his promise or become a murderer. In either case 
he is sinning. Here he must choose between the lesser of two evils. . . . 
Having violated one instruction, he became entangled and therefore 
had to sin. In this case two universals were clearly in conflict, but only 
because one universal had already been broken. Many other similar 
illustrations could be given where an individual had to sin, but ideally 
such situations need not occur ... if no universals were previously 
broken. ■^^ 

Of course, this is not to deny that sin must be confessed to a merciful 

As in hierarchicalism, the lesser of evils position accepts moral 
conflict as a given that must be resolved. But whereas in hierarchical- 
ism the resolution was normative and accomplished by following the 
situation-governing rule (i.e., when in moral conflict obey the higher 
law and receive an exemption from the lower law), in the lesser evil 
view the resolution in no way attempts to resolve the normative 
incoherence, i.e., resolving the irresolvable. The lesser evil alternative 
offers a different sort of resolution, a mere pragmatic one. It simply 
tells the person caught in conflict which moral obligation to follow 
and which to disobey, and leaves the morality and immorality up to 
the rules themselves.^" Normative incoherence is not resolved, but left 

There have been many criticisms of this system, but most of 
them have missed the mark.^^ Three criticisms, however, merit discus- 
sion. First, the lesser of evils position is incoherent. Indeed, that is the 

same level. If each rule is on a different level, no conflict is possible (and the picture of 
overlapping does not picture what Geisler thinks it does). On the other hand, if two 
rules are on the same level (and hence able to conflict) then the hierarchy is simply 
incomplete (see Appendix C). 

^^Lutzer, Morality Gap, 107. 

^"The rule-governing rule of the lesser of evils position could be phrased as 
follows: when in moral conflict, minimize evil. It is not clear if this rule involves a 
moral obligation such that violating it actually involves violation of two moral rules: 
this rule and the rule prohibiting the greater evil. Probably only the latter carries such a 
moral obligation. 

^^Geisler himself raises three criticisms in his writings. (1) "It is inconsistent with 
the nature of an all-loving God to hold a man guilty for doing the unavoidable" 
("Biblical Absolutes" p. 224). The point here is that the lesser evil view destroys the 


very essence of Fletcher's criticism. It is better to struggle with show- 
ing how commands really do not conflict than to admit normative 

Second, if the system of morality is normatively incoherent, the 
system reflects badly upon the author of the system, in this case God 
himself. If Biblical ethics is like a coat that is seen by the light of 
alleged moral conflicts to be tattered and torn, surely it would be just 
to question the ability of the tailor. Cannot God devise a system 
of ethics that is harmonious not only in abstraction but also in 

The response to this criticism is that it is the finite nature of the 
world and the fallen condition of man that accounts for the conflicts 
of God's laws.^^ But neither finitude nor fallenness are sufficient to 
absolve God of responsibility. Finitude will no more make the laws of 
God susceptible to conflict than the incarnation made the attributes 
of God susceptible to confusion.^^ And while fallenness certainly 

basis of responsibility and denies that ought implies can. However, it is not clear from 
Scripture and systematic theology that ought does imply can. The biblical way of 
putting the matter of responsibility seems to be that guilt results from sinful action and 
that sinful actions are intentional actions that are against the will of God. Lutzer 
distinguishes between actions that are intentional/ unavoidable and those that are 
unintentional/ unavoidable {Gap, 108). Then, too, it is not clear that lesser evil 
methodology does deny that ought implies can. According to the view, a person ought 
to obey each of the conflicting rules, and he can do each. The problem comes when one 
says that according to the view a person ought to do both (at the same time). The view 
does not hold that it is possible to do both at the same time. But is this just a semantic 
problem? (2) "There is a most serious problem this view raises with regard to the 
sinlessness of Christ. We are informed that Christ is our moral example. . . . Further 
we are assured that He is our complete moral example. He faced all the kinds of moral 
situations that we will face. He is 'one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, 
yet without sinning' (Heb. 4:15). But if there are real moral conflicts and Jesus faced 
them, then sinning was inevitable for him too. He must have sinned. But the Bible says 
clearly that He never sinned in word, thought or deed (cf. I Peter; I John). It follows, 
then, that there are no situations where a lesser evil is called for" ("Biblical Absolutes," 
225). However, Geisler has eisegeted the text. The text is referring to all kinds of 
physical temptations, not to all kinds of ethical situations. It is doubtful that Geisler 
can show that moral conflicts are physical or that they are even kinds of temptations. 
(3) This system holds men guilty for doing their moral best ("Biblical Absolutes," 
225). Not so at all. It holds men guilty for intentionally doing moral evil. 

^^Both Lutzer and Geisler adopt this argument. For Lutzer's version see Gap, 107. 
For Geisler's version see "Bibhcal Absolutes," 224; Love, 76; and Options, 73-80. 

"There is no better illustration of this point than the one Geisler uses in Love, 76, 
to prove the opposite point. Says Geisler, "The pyramid of principles emerge as the 
light of God's unchanging love passes through the prism of human experience thereby 
casting a spectrum or order of God's laws." In fact, God's love and harmonious rules 
pass through the prism of finitude and form a spectrum of laws that, like the colors of 
the spectrum, do not overlap or conflict. 

luck: moral conflicts and evangelical ethics 29 

accounts for the disobedience of God's laws, it is not at all clear how 
it makes possible the conflict of God's laws. God's laws are of two 
kinds: those that he can fashion by his will, and those that come 
necessarily from his nature. He can formulate those that come from 
his will so that they do not conflict with each other or with those 
from his nature. And those that come from his nature remain har- 
monious.^* To say that God's laws come into conflict with each other 
is to impugn the integrity and ability of God to devise an ethic that is 
internally consistent and coherent. 

But there is a far more telling criticism against the lesser evil 
alternative. In a case of supposed moral conflict, each of the conflict- 
ing rules is obliging moral evil as well as moral good. To take the case 
of Jephthah, the command to keep one's promises to God (Eccl 5:5) 
also (according to Lutzer's methodology) obliges Jephthah to murder/ 
sacrifice his daughter. On the other hand, the obligation not to 
commit sacrifice/ murder (Exod 20:13) is also obliging Jephthah to 
break his promise to God. And it seems such is the case in every 
alleged instance of moral conflict. Command A obliges an action that 
is evil according to command B, and command B obliges an action 
that is evil in reference to command A. To put it bluntly, in situations 
of moral conflict, God is obliging one to commit moral evil.^^ It will 
do no good to evade the issue by running to the condition that 
enabled or caused the conflict (viz., the fallen state of the world and 
the sinful choices of men). Nor will it do to run to the fact that each 
of the commands also commands moral good. Nor will it do to 
protest that God has made a way to resolve it all by telling us to 
minimize evil. The fact remains: if there is a true moral conflict, such 
that one command obliges action that another command prohibits, 
then God requires moral evil. And any God who requires moral evil 
is himself a devil and not the God of evangelical and biblical faith. ^° 

^^Lutzer says that sinful choices bring about entanglement, but if one analyzes the 
commands that conflict in such cases, one finds that at least one of the commandments 
involves promise-keeping or the obedience of human authority. And such duties are 
not, in the biblical use, "absolutes." Nor are they — except in a general, or relative, 
sense — a part of the Ten Commandments. 

^'Fletcher made this point when he debated another lesser evil theorist, John 
Montgomery. Geisler has a convoluted form of the criticism in his "Biblical Abso- 
lutes," 225. But Geisler does not realize that this criticism is just as valid against his 
own position. Without the obligation to do moral evil there would be no conflict for 
anybody. The point at which this criticism of the lesser evil position should be leveled 
is not at the obligation to do the lesser evil — where Geisler seems to place it — because 
that rule-governing rule directs its obligation only to the minimization and not to the 
actualization of evil. 

'"Lutzer's most recent statement in print on this topic can be found in his The 
Necessity of Ethical Absolutes (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1981). 



Both of the salvaging operations fail to save the day for evan- 
gelical ethics. This second look at them reveals that Fletcher was 
right, one cannot have a coherent plural absolutism and admit to the 
conflict of (absolute) moral rules. The lesser-evil alternative impugns 
the wisdom and morality of God by making him the author of a 
confused system of ethics that sometimes obliges men to do moral 
evil. The greater good view is impossible as stated and unacceptable 
when restated as a one-absolute absolutism (see Appendix D). 

The way to refute Fletcher is to deny one of his premises. Either 
the plurality of (absolute) moral rules or the conflict of rules must be 
eliminated. Since Scripture stands solidly behind the plurality of 
rules, evangelical ethics has no choice but to reject the reality of 
moral conflict. 

Fletcher realized that the refining of ethics (which he called 
casuistry) was possible. ^^ He just prematurely abandoned the ship. He 
found the course of casuistry hard sailing. Confusing the ship of 
biblical rules with the barnacles of human rules, he simply decided to 
float his own boat. It follows that the salvaging business is unneces- 
sary for Evangelicals. The only way to improve evangelical ethics is 
through the serious exegesis of Scripture. 


It is difficult to know exactly what Geisler means by exemption. 
The meaning is obscured by metaphors such as "dethroned." How- 
ever, there are only five ways of looking at the issue. First, by means 
of exemption Geisler is removing all of the obligatoriness from the 
sentence that was up to that point a moral law. Second, the exempt- 
ing process removes only part of the obligatoriness of the law. Third, 
the methodology leaves each law with its original obligatoriness (i.e., 
all that it ever had). Fourth, and following upon the third, the 
exemption removes the concept of guilt while not affecting the obliga- 
toriness. Fifth, exemption eliminates the punishment while not aff'ect- 
ing obligatoriness or guilt. 

Geisler cannot mean the latter because he denies that guilt is 
incurred by the disobeying of the lower law. Yet it is not clear that he 
really means that guilt is removed without some removal of obliga- 
tion. Geisler (Ethics, 115, 130) says that the person not obeying the 
lower law breaks it. If he is serious about breaking the lower law, 

''Fletcher, Situation Ethics 19. Fletcher's experience was with the Catholic and 
Jewish perversions of casuistry. His criticism at this point moves off into a straw-man 

luck: moral conflicts and evangelical ethics 31 

then he might hold the fourth view. However, he is inconsistent on 
this point and seems to conclude that "when a lower principle or 
norm is suspended, it is not really broken" {Ethics, 130). Now if the 
lower law is really broken, then the concept of exemption (suspen- 
sion) must involve the affecting of obligation. Therefore he cannot 
hold the fourth view. Nor can he hold the third, which also assumes 
that the obligation of the rule is not in any way affected. And in the 
body of this article it has been argued that whether he adopts the 
second view (as he seems to do on page 19 of Ethics) or the first view 
(as he seems to do on page 18 of Ethics) he holds a view that is 
analytically impossible. 

One might note that the concept of exemption is related to the 
concept of immunity. Perhaps Geisler is thinking in terms of a disease 
model of obligation where the obligation may be present but cannot 
affect the person inoculated. If so, then it must be argued that this 
idea involves improper analogy. When disease is present in a body, 
but inoculation prevents the adverse effects, there is no parallel to 
morality except perhaps in the sense that the mere presence of a rule 
(with its obligation) need not effect obedience (because the person has 
been inoculated by original sin; "ought" does not imply "does"). 
Moral obligation is sui generis. Moral obligation is not like the 
obligation of nature's laws. One cannot have a rule that obliges but 
from which one is immune. The closest thing to what Geisler wants is 
the situation in civil law where a statute that prohibits travel on 
public streets faster than 55 miles per hour is justifiably not kept by 
emergency vehicles. But most correctly, the rule is seen as a general 
rule that admits such exceptions. 

appendix b 

In retrospect, hierarchicalism may be said to have more than one 
absolute. It is possible to distinguish between a "simple" absolute and 
a "complex" one. A simple absolute is one that is entirely substan- 
tive. For example, "You shall not murder." This and only this is what 
is meant by an absolute. In discussing this sort of rule, Geisler often 
confuses it with a "general rule," which has the same form, e.g., "You 
shall not kill." Only ethical reflection (consideration of exempting- 
conditions/ exceptional cases) will reveal whether the rule in question 
is general or truly absolute. In a revealed system, this means con- 
sideration of exceptional cases revealed in the text of Scripture, etc. 

A general rule such as "You shall not kill," with an appendage of 
a heuristic or "rule-governing" clause, i.e., "except when killing is 
necessary to adhere to a higher rule," produces, in the totality of 
clauses, what might be called a complex absolute. This is correct if 
the defined exceptions, in principle, are inclusive. Geisler's system has 


a great number of these complex (and partly substantive) "absolutes." 
But he never speaks of such an inclusion as an absolute, but only of 
the substantive portion as absolute. The closest Geisler comes is when 
he responds to a criticism that his absolutes are not really absolute. 
He says that "the very gradation of values by which the conflicts are 
resolved is absolute. For example, it is absolutely established in 
accordance with the nature of God that in an unavoidable conflict 
between God and parent one must put God first" {Options, 94.). But 
in any case, this complex sort of absolute is really nothing more than 
a general rule with inclusively stated exceptions. Geisler confusedly 
calls the general rule in all these complex rules absolutes. That is 
denotatively incorrect, for it is that portion of the rule which is 
qualified by the appended clause. Indeed the very strangest thing in 
the whole debate is Geisler's apparent inability to recognize the differ- 
ence between a general rule and an absolute. It is as if his apologetic 
against those who admit only to general rules (chap. 3 of Ethics) has 
poisoned him from ever using the term in his own ethics. In fact, 
those who try to draw the distinction and do the careful sort of 
definitional work required in properly limiting the meaning of an 
offense term (e.g., lying) receive his sharp criticism. Of Murray he 
speaks harshly, referring to Murray's ethical refinement as trying to 
salvage his absolutism by "stipulative redefinition." Yet the same sort 
of redefinition is going on in Geisler, it is just that in Geisler the 
definition being altered is the term "absolute" itself. Murray is coming 
to a possible (and it is hoped, biblically correct) definition of lying. 
Geisler is coming to an impossible definition of absolute. 


Hierarchicalism is a confused conglomeration of several diff'erent 
methodologies all pulling against each other but held together by the 
misuse of terms. Below are the diff'erent systems that Geisler could 
hold if he were to restate his method eliminating contradicting ele- 
ments and clarifying key terms. 

Non-conflicting plural absolutism could be derived by seeing that 
any resolution ehminates moral conflicts. The concept of irresolvable 
conflict ("Biblical Absolutes," 224 et passim) must be softened to 
prima facie conflict. And, he must be wilUng to argue that at least two 
of the absolutes are not subject to the exempting process. This system 
could be acceptable to evangelicals if Geisler would preserve at least 
13 absolutes: (1) the Ten Commandments, (2) the "first and greatest 
of the commandments and the second like unto it," and (3) the 
obligation to love. 

Single (non-conflicting) absolutism could be derived from the 
admission that only one moral rule is truly absolute (vis-a-vis the 

luck: moral conflicts and evangelical ethics 33 

exempting process). He would still have to admit that moral conflicts 
are only prima facie. The existence of a hierarchy eliminates the 
possibility of moral conflict. This system, which seems to be the most 
logical restatement of what he wants, should be unacceptable to 

The lesser of evils position could be derived by his realizing that 
the retaining of the concept of moral conflict necessitates the obliga- 
tion to do evil as well as the obligation to do good. To adopt this 
position the hierarchy must be dumped at least at some point so as to 
allow moral conflict. This position is unacceptable to Evangelicals 
since it implies that God obliges moral evil. 

In addition to the above, it should be noted that unless Geisler 
puts more stress upon the intrinsic value of the rule rather than upon 
the nonmoral values that actions produce, his system will be little 
diff"erent than that of rule utilitarianism. In fact, unless he adopts 
some form of nonconflict theory, he must revert to some form of 
teleological calculation. Anthony Flew points out in his Encyclopedia 
of Philosophy article on "Means and Ends" that normative conflict 
can only be resolved by teleology. Lutzer realizes this and his talk of 
choosing to do the action that has the least evil consequences evi- 
dences it. Geisler's seven principles in Ethics are like the sort of 
reasoning that goes into a utilitarian calculation. 


There is an element of truth that underlies each of these un- 
acceptable systems. First, they both arise from the perplexity and 
doubt of which Fletcher spoke. There are times when it seems that 
one must go against one of the commands of God. This occurs when 
one is not sure whether or not a command applies to the situation. It 
is the job of the biblical ethicist to formulate the best system possible 
for such people. The need for such formulative eflForts is crucial. It is 
a sad commentary upon the evangelical subculture that so little 
systematizing has been done in recent years. It is not sufficient to 
present biblical ethics as a jumble of rules and regulations (liberally 
sprinkled with culturally relative rules) and let it go at that. Evan- 
gelicals need a sound presentation of the system of ethics that is 
restricted to what the Bible says and implies. 

Second, from hierarchicalism one can rightly learn that there is a 
hierarchy of love's laws. Seeing this may well make one more sensi- 
tive to those weightier matters of the law (the inward moral virtues) 
that need constant attention lest mere outward obedience of the 
ceremonial elements crowd them out. And, to appreciate the beautiful 
architecture of the scriptural norms, another hierarchy is needed, one 
of considerable scope (the "greatest/ first" commandment includes but 


is of wider scope than the "second-like-unto-it"). There is also a need 
to consider the hierarchy of sins — that some actions are worse than 
others — in order that one may exercise special care not to practice 
that which is abominable to God. Finally, Evangelicals need to think 
on the hierarchy of good consequences so that within the bounds of 
the (deontological) rules they may strive to produce the greatest 
amount of good for the greatest number of neighbors. But hierarchy 
does not imply conflicts. The very same passages in Scripture that 
talk of hierarchy also caution against the thought that the keeping of 
the lower removes obligation to the higher or that the keeping of the 
higher removes the necessity of following the lower. 

Third, from the lesser evil alternative. Evangelicals must face the 
unhappy fact that in a fallen world, men are sometimes faced with the 
necessity of choosing among evil actions. But the evil that one may be 
obliged to do is not moral evil but rather physical evil. For example, 
there may be forced upon a nation the unhappy choice of submission 
to a foreign tyrant or the military defense of the nation. Both are 
physical evils. But to the nation faced with the choice of just war or 
submission, neither action would be intrinsically evil in the moral 
sense. God does oblige physical evil (e.g., capital punishment, war, 
etc.) but not moral evil. 

Grace TheologicalJournaliA (1987) 35-54 




James L. Boyer 

Much popular exegesis of the Greek imperative mood rests on 
unwarranted assumptions. Analysis of the actual usage of the impera- 
tive in the NT reveals that many common exegetical conclusions 
regarding the imperative are unfounded. For example, a prohibition 
with the present imperative does not necessarily mean "stop. " And 
when it does, it is context, not some universal rule of the imperative, 
that determines the meaning. The imperative mood has a wide lati- 
tude of meanings from which the exegete must choose in light of 
contextual clues. The temptation to standardize the translation of the 
various imperatival usages should be resisted. 


ONE of the clearest and simplest statements of the basic signifi- 
cance of the imperative mood is given by Dana and Mantey. 
"The imperative is . . . the mood of volition. It is the genius of the 
imperative to express the appeal of will to will." They go on to 
compare it with the other moods. "It expresses neither probability 
nor possibility, but only intention, and is, therefore, the furthest 
removed from reality."' This study will offer a classification of the 

♦Informational materials and listings generated in the preparation of this study 
may be found in my "Supplemental Manual of Information: Imperative Verbs." Those 
interested may secure this manual through their local library by interlibrary loan from 
the Morgan Library, Grace Theological Seminary, 200 Seminary Dr., Winona Lake, 
IN 46590. Also available is "Supplemental Manual of Information: Infinitive Verbs," 
and "Supplemental Manual of Information: Subjunctive Verbs." These augment my 
articles, "The Classification of Infinitives: A Statistical Study," Gr7 6 (1985) 3-27 and 
"The Classification of Subjunctives: A Statistical Study," GTJ 7 (1986) 3-19. I plan to 
prepare other supplemental manuals as time permits, beginning with one on participles. 
H. E. Dana and J. Mantey, A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament 
(New York: MacMillan, 1943) 174. 


ways the imperative is used in NT Greek, together with statistical 
information and comparisons, and a discussion of several of the 
questions related to the understanding of this mood. 


The list of uses proposed here is more detailed than is usually 
found in the grammars. Many speak of commands and entreaties, or 
requests; some add permission and condition. This study would add a 
few that are small in number but interesting enough to merit separate 
treatment. They will be listed in order of frequency of occurrence. 

Commands and Prohibitions 

By far the largest number (1357 or 83%)^ belong to this category, 
which includes both positive and negative commands. The latter, 
often listed separately under the term 'prohibitions,' are introduced 
by some form of the negative particle \ir\. There are 188 of them; they 
will be discussed below separately regarding what some suppose to be 
peculiarities of usage. Here they are simply included under the term 

Commands include a broad spectrum of concepts — injunctions, 
orders, admonitions, exhortations— ranging from authoritarian dic- 
tates (a centurion ordering his soldier to go or come. Matt 8:9), to the 
act of teaching (Jesus' Sermon on the Mount, Matt 5:2, cf. 12ff.). 
Commands are distinguished from requests as "telling" is from "ask- 
ing." The distinction, however, is not made by the mood used but by 
the situation, the context. They are used in the language of superiors 
to subordinates and of subordinates to superiors, and between equals. 

Most commonly, imperatives are in the second person (85%), but 
they are unlike their English counterparts in that they also occur in 
the third person (15%). Later in the article, this third person impera- 
tive will be discussed in detail. 

Requests and Prayers 

The second class of imperatives is made up of prayers, petitions, 
and requests. Much fewer than the commands, they still are quite 
numerous (188, 11%),^ enough to silence the bothersome claim, "This 
is not asking, it's telling; it is in the imperative mood." This ought not 
seem strange to English speakers who use it like the Greeks in prayer 
("Lord, help us") and in everyday speech ("Pass the potatoes"). 

In addition to these are 28 which I have given alternative identification as 
command; see below. 

'There are 7 more given alternative identification as requests. 

boyer: a classification of imperatives 37 

Frequently in the NT this usage is introduced by a word indicating 
that it is a request: epcoxdo), eTrspcoxdco / 'ask', Tipoaeuxojiai / 'pray'. 
Indeed, the Lord's prayer is a series of imperatives. 

Requests are usually in the second person (93%) and singular 
(80%). The tense is usually aorist (80%) which is in accord with the 
usual Greek practice and reflects the tendency of requests and prayers 
to be occasional and specific. It contrasts sharply, however, with the 
use of tenses in the other categories of imperative in the NT, where 
the present tense outnumbers the aorist in every instance. The over- 
all comparison is 47% aorist to 53% present. 

While most requests and petitions are positive, there are a few 
negative (4 with |xf| and the present imperative, 5 with nf| and the 
aorist subjunctive.) 


Next in order of frequency (27 or 2%f is that category of 
imperatives that expresses permission or consent. Rather than an 
appeal to the will, this category involves a response to the will of 
another. "The command signified by the imperative may be in com- 
pliance with an expressed desire or a manifest inclination on the part 
of the one who is the object of the command, thus involving consent 
as well as command."^ 

This permission may be either willing and therefore welcome to 
the speaker (as in Luke 7:40 when Jesus asked Peter if he might speak 
with him, and he answered, "Say it, teacher") or reluctant (as in John 
19:6, where Pilate gave permission to the Jewish leaders to crucify 
Jesus although still insisting that he found no fault in him) or neutral 
(involving permission given in a situation where either course of 
action was acceptable, as in 1 Cor 7:15). Rev 22:11 has 4 of these 
permissive imperatives; 2 are contrary to the will of the speaker, 2 are 

The second person imperative is used in 17 of these, compared 
with 10 uses of the third person. The present tense occurs 17 times to 
10 of the aorist. 


In 16 examples the imperative appears as an exclamatory word 
introducing another statement, thus acting as an interjection. It 
stands before a hortatory subjunctive clause or a negative prohibition 
subjunctive and serves as an attention-getter, a call to give heed: 

Three more are given alternative identification as permission. 
^Dana and Mantey, Grammar, 174. 


opais (4), opa (3), I'Ssis (1), ctKousxe (1), dKOuaaxe (1), dys (2), 
a(pEq (3), d(p8T8 (1). These might well be identified as interjections; 
indeed, two other words that are clearly interjections (5s0po and 
SeOis) occur in the same constructions and actually have imperatival 
endings though they are not verbs. 


An idiomatic form of salutation uses the imperative of the verb 
Xaipo) (xctipe 5, xotip£i^£ !)• The usual meaning of the word is "to 
make glad, to rejoice," but apparently the sense in this construction is 
broader: "to be well, to thrive."^ Hence, it is an expression of good 
will like our "Good morning," or "How are you?" (expecting an 
answer such as "I am well"). Another in this category, sppcoaGs, is the 
perfect imperative of pwvvuiii / 'to be strong, to thrive, to prosper' 
(the usual formula in closing a letter). The total in this group is 7. 

Challenge to Understanding 

Similar in some respects to the category called "Exclamatory" is 
this group that might be called a challenge to understanding (4 
examples). These are clearly verb forms, not interjectional, but they 
are a call to know, to perceive, to understand. Luke 12:39, "And be 
sure of this, that. ..." The verbs involved are yivcbaKETe, ^XenExs, and 
(XKOusxe. All of these could also be identified as simple indicatives. 


Probably the strangest and most controversial category of imper- 
atives is that which seems to express some conditional element. Here 
it is necessary to distinguish two groups. The first is neither strange 
nor controversial; it includes a large number of instances (about 20) 
where an imperative is followed by Kai and a future indicative verb. It 
says, "Do something and this will follow." This combination clearly is 
capable of two explanations. It could well be a simple command 
followed by a promise. Or it could be understood to imply that the 
promise is conditioned upon the doing of the thing commanded, "If 
you do something this will follow." Jas 4:7, 8, 10, "Resist tne devil, 
and he will flee. . . . Draw near to God and He will draw near to 
you. . . . Humble yourselves . . . and He will exalt you." The familiar 
prayer promise, "ask . . . seek . . . knock . . ." (Matt 7:7, Luke 11:9; 
cf. also John 16:24), belongs here; it could mean "if you ask you will 

*J. H. Thayer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (New York: 
American Book Co., 1889) 664. 

boyer: a classification of imperatives 39 

receive." Examples of this kind have been assigned to an alternate 
classification; they are either command or condition. 

The second group consists of a few passages where condition has 
been proposed to explain a difficult passage. Each passage will be 
discussed briefly. 

John 2:19 

Jesus said to the unbelieving temple-defilers, "Destroy this temple 
and ... I will raise it up." John explains that he was speaking of the 
temple of his body. Obviously, this is not a command or request. 
Conceivably, it could be a reluctant permission; "I will let you do it, 
then I will undo it." But it seems to many expositors that the impera- 
tive is conditional, "If you do, I will, ..." It is almost, "Do it if you 
dare!" — a challenge with a threat attached. 

2 Corinthians 12:16 

This passage begins with an imperative, eaxco 5s, "But be that as 
it may," (NASB). The KJV has "But be it so." Literally, it is "Let it 
be." The sense seems to be, "Whatever may be the answer to the 
question I just asked, it doesn't matter; it doesn't change the situa- 
tion." Or, to use an English slang expression (without the negative 
connotation), "So what?" In this passage, then, the significance of the 
imperative mood seems either to involve permission ("Permit it to be 
so") or condition ("If that is the way it is, so be it"). 

Ephesians 4:26 

The problem here is in the first word, opyi^eaGe 'be angry'. It is 
an imperative. Two opposite explanations have traditionally been 

(1) The anger here is said to be "righteous indignation," the kind 
of anger God has toward sin, and which Jesus manifested on occa- 
sion. Thus the passage is a command. But it seems impossible to 
understand this in a good sense in a context (cf. v 31; 2:3; also Matt 
5:22, Rom 12:19, Col 3:8, 1 Tim 2:8, Tit 1:7, Jas 1:19) that condemns 
anger and orders it to be put away. The word used here, opyi^co and 
its cognates, is never used in a good sense except in references to the 
anger of God and Christ. And "righteous indignation" seems never to 
be approved for men. In fact, the scripture says, "For the anger of 
man does not achieve the righteousness of God" (Jas 1:20). The 
righteous anger of God operates in the area of judgment, and that 
area is out of bounds to believers, at least for the present. Besides, if 
this is a command to show "righteous indignation," why is the warn- 
ing added to end it before the sun goes down? 


(2) Attempt is made to see here an example of some imperatival 
use other than command; possibly conditional, "If you do get angry 
don't sin by nursing it too long; don't let the sun go down on it." Or 
possibly it is an unwilUng permission, "Be angry if you must." 

Alternative Classifications 

As already indicated, it is sometimes difficult to decide among 
these possible classifications. In such cases alternate choices have 
been given. The categories involved and the number of instances 
where an alternate classification is possible are as follows: 

Command or Condition (see above) 20^ 

Command or Request 6* 

Permission or Condition (see above) 3' 

Command or Permission 2'° 

Permission or Challenge l" 

Request or Condition l'^ 


Present Versus Aorist in Commands 

Compared with other Greek literature, the NT is unusual in 
having a large number of present imperatives as compared with the 
aorist (53% present, 47% aorist, 0.2% perfect). The reason for this 
undoubtedly lies in the character of the literature. Largely hortatory, 
it teaches universal moral principles: "always be doing. ..." And this 
is one of the special provinces of the present imperative. 

What is the Difference? 

Probably the most discussed question encountered in the study 
of the imperative mood deals with the distinction in meaning between 
the present and aorist tenses. It is here, too, that the most confusion 
and misrepresentation occurs. The solution to the confusion is to be 
found in examining the basic aspectual significances of the tenses 
generally, rather than in the study of the imperative mood specifi- 
cally. In other words, finding the distinction between the present and 
aorist imperatives lies not in looking at mood but at tense. 

'Matt 7:7 (3 times), 27:42; Mark 11:29; Luke 10:28, Luke 11:9 (3 times); John 7:52, 
16:24; Acts 9:6 (twice), 16:31; Gal 6:2; Eph 5:14 (twice); Jas 4:7, 8, 10. 
'Matt 9:38, 11:15, 13:9,43, 17:20; Rev 4:1. 
'John 2:19, 2 Cor 12:16, Eph 4:26. 
'"l Cor 11:6 (twice). 
"1 Cor 6:4. 
"John 1:39. 

boyer: a classification of imperatives 41 

It is obvious that the distinction is not in the time of the action, 
for only in the indicative mood is time involved; all the other moods 
are future in time reference. Rather, the difference is in the way the 
speaker chooses to speak of the types of action.'^ There are three 
basic kinds: (a) durative, continuing, repeated, or customary, expressed 
by the present tense; (b) simple action, "do it," expressed by the aorist 
tense; and (c) completed and lasting, expressed by the perfect tense. 
Major grammars are usually clear on these.''* 

Thus the present imperative expresses a command or request 
that calls for action that is continuing or repeated, often general, 
universal, habitual; action that characterizes the doer. "Love one 
another" means, not "do something," but "always be doing things for 
one another." On the other hand, the aorist imperative is used to 
command or request an action that is specific and occasional, dealing 
with everyday procedural decisions, or in general admonitions simply 
to say, "Do it."'^ 

'^Grammarians have long referred to "kinds of action" (aktionsart) for the basic 
distinction; durative, punctihar, completed. But many have confused these terms to 
refer to the actual way the action took place; the aorist came to be thought of as single 
occurrence — instantaneous, once for all, never to be repeated, happening in a punc- 
tihar way — rather than the speaker's choice of a punctiliar way of speaking of it 
without regard to the way it happened, simple (not single) occurrence. More recently 
the term "aspect" has come to be used which seems to be less prone to confusion. 

'"a. T. Robertson, in his A Grammar of the Greek New Testament in the Light of 
Historical Research (Nashville: Broadman, 1934) 832-54, surveys both the history of 
the Greek language and also the history of what the grammarians have said about it. 
He uses the "kind of action" approach to the tenses, but attempts to safeguard it from 
the confusion between the action itself and the way the speaker speaks of the action: 
"The 'constative' aorist just treats the act as a single whole entirely irrespective of the 
parts or time involved. If the act is a point in itself, well and good. But the aorist can 
be used also for an act which is not a point. ... All aorists are punctiliar in statement" 
(italics mine). A similar approach is used in F. Blass and A. Debrunner, A Greek 
Grammar of the New Testament and Other Christian Literature, trans, and rev. by 
Robert Funk (Chicago: Univ. of Chicago, 1961) 172. N. Turner, in his A Grammar of 
New Testament Greek, Vol. 3: Syntax (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1963) 59ff., 74-78, 
agrees basically, aUhough he uses terminology that sometimes introduces confusion 
(for example, he equates punctiliar with instantaneous and comes up with a "once for 
all" aorist concept). In his treatment of the imperatives in another of his books, 
Grammatical Insights into the New Testament (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1965) 29-32, 
41, he strongly embraces the misconception that a present imperative implies "Stop." 
The classical Greek grammars, W. W. Goodwin, Greek Grammar, rev. by C. B. Gulick 
(Boston: Gin, 1930) 284-85, and H. W. Smyth, Greek Grammar (Cambridge: Harvard 
Univ., 1976) 409-11, clearly present this same understanding of the significance of tense 
in imperative verbs and warn against the same abuses. 

''The perfect is extremely rare in the imperative, with only four examples in the 
NT. Two (Eph 5:5, Jas 1:19) involve the verb oi8a, which is perfect in form but present 
in meaning, one (Acts 15:29) is a stereotyped epistolary form, the other, Jtecpincoao 
(Mark 4:39) expresses a true perfect sense. 


Popular Misconceptions 

By far the most prevalent of the inadequate and misleading 
claims of popular exegesis is that the present imperative with lafj 
means "stop" doing something that is already being done, and the 
corollary to it, although not so commonly insisted upon nor stated, 
says that the aorist prohibition (fa,f| with aorist subjunctive) means 
"don't start" doing something that is not yet being done. The "rule" is 
used to prove such statements to the effect that the Christians at 
Ephesus were continuing to be thieves and drunkards (Eph 4:26, 

The origin of this notion is usually traced to a "barking dog" 
story told by Moulton. He quotes a Dr. Henry Jackson as saying, 
"Davidson told me that, when he was learning modern Greek, he had 
been puzzled about the distinction [between \xr\ with the present 
imperative or aorist subjunctive] until he heard a Greek friend use the 
present imperative to a dog which was barking. This gave him the 

Is the claim valid? If its proponents had read further in Moulton's 
grammar, they would have found him demonstrating that, while it is 
a helpful insight into one possible meaning of the present imperative, 
it is not the only one; he cites examples where it does not work and 
continuing the quote, summarizes: 

\ir] TToiEi accordingly needs mental supplements, and not one only. It is 
"Stop doing," or "Do not (from time to time)," or "Do not (as you are 
in danger of doing)," or "Do not attempt to do." We are not justified in 
excluding, for the purposes of the present imperative in prohibitions, 
the various kinds of action which we find attached to the present stem 

Many of the beginning and intermediate grammars present this 
inadequate and misleading concept, often without any suggestion that 
it is true only part of the time. Dana and Mantey state, "The purpose 
of a prohibition, when expressed by the aorist subjunctive, is to 
forbid a thing before it has begun; i.e., it commands to never do a 
thing. But a prohibition in the present imperative means to forbid the 
continuance of an act; it commands to quit doing a thing. "*^ They 
even quote Moulton's "barking dog" story with no hint of his warn- 
ing against taking this as the whole story. The treatment is similar in 

J. H. Moulton, A Grammar of New Testament Greek. Vol. I; Prolegomena 
(Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1906) 122-23. 
"Dana and Mantey, Grammar, 299, 301. 

boyer: a classification of imperatives 43 

many of the newer grammars, such as Kaufman,'* Kistemaker,'^ and 
Powers. ^'^ Best^' makes it better by using the quaUfying word "usually," 
although that word inadequately represents less than one fourth of 
the examples. Turner has a good statement in his grammar, ^^ but 
strongly applies this inadequate rule in another of his books. ^^ 

The final demonstration of the fallacy of this explanation of the 
distinction, of course, must be found in a study of the NT passages 
where the construction occurs. There are 174 instances of the present 
imperative with |if|. The results of a study of these are summarized 

General exhortations (no indication about present) 100 

Previous action explicit in context 26 

Previous action explicit, but already stopped 4 

Previous action probable from context 12 

Pervious action denied in context 32 

— Exhortations for a future time 14 
— Nature of action such that it can be done only 

once: "stop" meaningless 4 

— Context explicitly says it is not already being done 8 

— Context implies it is not already being done 6 

As indicated earlier, general exhortations strongly predominate. 
In some cases the negative form is simply a form of litotes; "do not be 
careless" is used for "always be careful" (1 Tim 4:14). Sometimes 
the present seems to point to attempted action (Matt 19:6, "don't 
try to divorce . . ."; certainly not "husbands, stop divorcing your 
wives"). Often it is difficult to make sense if the "stop" translation is 

In several instances the context makes clear that the action had 
been going on previously, but had already been stopped, as indicated 
by such words as |ar|Ksxi, Tcd>tiv, oiTro xou vi5v.^'* To use "stop" for 
"don't start again" makes the rule rather meaningless. 

'*P. L. Kaufman, An Introductory Grammar of New Testament Greek (Palm 
Springs, CA: Haynes, 1982) 123. 

"S. Kistemaker, Introduction to Greek (Jackson, Miss.: Reformed Theological 
Seminary, 1975)91. 

W. Powers, Learn to Read the Greek New Testament (Sidney, Australia: Anzer, 

^'Best, "A Supplement to Williams Grammar Notes" (Dallas Theological Semi- 
nary, n.d.) 40a. 

^^N. Turner, Syntax, 74-75. 

^^N. Turner, Insights, 29-32, 41. 

^"John 5:14, 8:11; Gal 5:1; Eph 4:28. Cf. 1 Tim 5:23; it hardly can mean "Stop 
drinking water;" rather, "Don't always be a water-drinker (drink something else once 
in awhile)." 


The exhortations addressed to a future (e.g., eschatological) time^^ 
also prove the fallacy of the "stop" translation — unless one adopts the 
concept that at that future time everyone who reads these statements 
will be guilty of doing these things and is enjoined to "stop"! 

In four instances^^ the nature of the action forbidden is such that 
it can be done only once, so that to "stop" is meaningless. Note that in 
these examples precisely the same construction is used for two oppo- 
site cases, one a previously existing condition, the other of the same 
condition not previously existing. 

The 8 passages listed^^ where the context expUcitly says that the 
action forbidden was not previously going on are crucial; any one of 
them is proof of the fallacy of the notion under discussion. In Luke 
22:42, Jesus prayed, "Father, if Thou art willing, remove this cup 
from me; yet not My will, but Thine be done." The last clause, nXriv 
\if\ TO 6e?ir||Li(x |iou akXa to gov yEvsaGo contains |if| with a present 
imperative, yet it cannot be translated "Stop letting my will be done"; 
for in the larger context of the Bible, Jesus specifically denies that he 
ever did his own will, but always did the will of his Father (John 5:30, 
6:38, 8:29). In speaking to unbeHevers who were accusing him of 
blasphemy (Jn 10:37), he said |if| 7riaT8ueT8 \ioi. It cannot mean 
"Stop believing in me." In 1 Cor 14:39 Paul certainly did not tell the 
tongues-loving Corinthians to "stop forbidding to speak in tongues," 
even though it is a present imperative with ^f|. 

Early Christian literature can also be cited in regard to this 
discussion. In Ignatius's Letter to Polycarp^^ an interesting example of 
a present imperative with )if| occurs: ^rjSev avsu yv6)\ir\q gov yivsaOco 
|ir|58 ah avsu OsoC ti npaaas, OTtsp o65s Tipdaasi, suaTdOei / 'Let 
nothing be done without your approval, and do nothing yourself 
without God, as indeed you do nothing; stand fast'. 

In public buses in modern Greece, a sign is frequently posted 
above the driver's seat: MH OMIAEITE EIE TON OAHFON. It is 
present imperative with |if|. Does it mean, "Stop talking to the 
driver"? That would hardly be appropriate to one who was boarding 
the bus and has not said a word. Does it mean, "Don't speak to the 
driver"? That would be unfortunate for those who need directions. 
Does it not rather mean, "Don't carry on a conversation with the 
driver"? That would be a dangerous practice, and the sign makes 

"Man 10:29, 34, 24:6; Mark 13:7, 11, 21; Luke 9:3, 10:4, 7, 12:7, 12:32, 14:12, 
21:21; Acts 1:20; 1 Cor 4:5; 2 John 10 (twice). 

^*I Cor 7:12, 13, 18 (twice). 

"Matt 9:30; Luke 22:42; John 10:37; 19:21; Rom 6:12, 13 (cf. v 14); 1 Cor 14:39; 
1 John 2:15 (cf. vs. 16). Three of those listed in the previous footnote also fit here. 

^*IV.l. Loeb Classical Library, K. Lake, The Apostolic Fathers, Vol. I (Cam- 
bridge: Harvard Univ., 1977) 270-73. 

boyer: a classification of imperatives 45 

sense. Modern Greek preserves the old distinction of \ir\ with present 
imperative in that it reflects the idea of continuing action, in this case, 
that of conversation. 

Aorist Imperative More Urgent 

Perhaps because English does not have a tense called "aorist," 
students have come to feel that this tense must be something special 
and have become accustomed to think of it in superlatives. This is not 
correct. Even the name the Greeks used for this tense indicates its 
non-special character (d-privative, + opi^w, a verb indicating limits, 
boundaries; hence unlimited, unbounded, the tense that can be used 
for anything). When one does not want to call particular attention to 
continued or repeated action, or to abiding results from a completed 
action, he would use the aorist. English does have the equivalent to 
the aorist. In the indicative where time is involved it is the simple past 
tense, "He did it." In other moods it is the simple verb. For our 
present consideration it is the simple imperative, "Do it." This is the 
thrust of what the grammarians are indicating when they call it "point 
action" or "punctiliar." It does not mean that the action occurred in a 
single point of time, in a split second, nor that it will not be repeated. 
It means that the speaker is not pointing to how it happened, he is 
just saying, "It happened." 

This tendency to glamorize the aorist has influenced the way 
some have described the aorist imperative. It is frequently claimed to 
be "more urgent."^^ Some have called it "preemptory and cate- 
gorical, . . . [the present is] less pressing, less rude, less ruthless. "^° 

In evaluating these claims, several things need to be considered. 
First, it is contrary to the basic significance of the aorist to make it 
special in any way. Second, these terms (i.e., "urgent," "categorical," 
etc.) do not convey clearly defined distinctions. In what sense is the 
aorist "more urgent"? This might be understood to mean it carries 
more force, more authority. Obviously, some commands produce 
more pressure than others, but the pressure is in the rank, the author- 
ity, or the desperation of the speaker, not in the wording of the 
command. And the aorist is used by kings and by slaves, by God 

H. L. Drumwright, An Introduction to New Testament Greek (Nashville: Broad- 
man, 1980) 130, says, "Usually a note of urgency is suggested by aorist imperative." 
D. Wallace, "Selected Notes on the Syntax of New Testament Greek" (unpublished 
intermediate Greek syllabus, Grace Theological Seminary, 1981) 205-6, repeatedly uses 
'urgent': "The stress is on the urgency of the action ... on the solemnity and urgency of 
the action . . . 'Make this your top priority.'" 

^°N. Turner, Syntax, 74-75. BDF, 137, and Robert Funk, Beginning- Intermediate 
Grammar of Hellenistic Greek. Vol. 2 (Society of Biblical Literature, 1973) 640, also 
use the term. 


speaking both to men and by men, both saints and sinners, speaking 
to God. Would an aorist command from a slave to a king have more 
force than a present imperative from God to a believer? 

Or, "urgent" might be related to the time issue, to priority; it 
might be demanding first attention, "right now," or "as soon as 
possible." Some justification for such a use of the term may be found 
in the unquestioned fact that the aorist is often occasional, used to 
answer questions like "What shall I do?" These are usually asked 
when a decision is pending. But the urgency is in the situation, not in 
the aorist. 

"Categorical" is another term that is not completely clear in this 
context. What is the diflference between a "categorical imperative" 
and one that is not? A dictionary defines it as meaning unconditional, 
unqualified, unequivocal: absolute, positive, direct, explicit. "Love 
one another" is a present tense imperative in the NT, yet all these 
terms could be used of it except possibly the last. 

Third, the study of aorist commands does not warrant these 
imprecise distinctions. There are 40 examples (45%) where the aorist 
prohibition was qualified by explanations, reasons, or exceptions; the 
terms "categorical," or "unequivocal" are therefore inappropriate. In 
a few examples, time urgency was explicit (Matt 21:19, Acts 16:28, 
23:21); it may be present to some degree in many others, but it does 
not warrant being considered the characteristic distinctive of aorist 
commands. Rather, 65% were specific, related to a particular occa- 
sion, and 35% were general or universal, of such a character that they 
could have been stated with a present imperative had the speaker 
wished to emphasize their durative quality, but apparently chose to 
say simply, "Do not do it." 

Subjunctive versus Imperative in Aorist Prohibitions 

Though it may seem strange that the aorist subjunctive is used in 
negative commands or entreaties rather than the imperative mood, it 
is by far the most common way. Grammarians explain it from his- 
torical factors. The imperative was the last of the moods to develop, 
and it never completely replaced the older ways of expressing com- 
mand. In aorist prohibitions the Greek language held to the old way, 
\}iX\ with subjunctive. Perhaps a parallel may be seen in Enghsh. We 
use the imperative without the subject in the second person: "go," 
"do," "be." But in the third person we express command by saying 
"let him go," "let it be," which is a subjunctive. For example, the first 
petition in the Lord's prayer is "Hallowed be Thy name." It could be 
stated in more normal word order, "Thy name be hallowed." Or in 
normal speech it might be, "Let thy name be hallowed." Is there a 
difference in meaning? Probably not. 

boyer: a classification of imperatives 47 

The subjunctive of prohibition is not always used in NT Greek. 
It occurs 88 times, but the aorist imperative is also used with |if| 
8 times. ^' And there seems to be no distinguishable difference in 
meaning. In Matt 6:3 the aorist imperative is used in parallel with the 
more common \xr\ with the subjunctive in Matt 6:2. The other 
6 occurrences are all found in parallel accounts of one statement of 
Christ. Interestingly, Luke records this statement twice in his gospel, 
once using the aorist imperative with |xf|, in the other the present 
imperative with |j,f|, clearly indicating that tense is not dealing with 
different kinds of action, but different ways of looking at action. 

Significance of Third Person Imperative 

English has no distinct third person imperative, but Greek has. 
This makes it difficult to translate. We correctly use the periphrastic 
expression "let him do," but it seems strange to English students to 
address one person and give a command to a third person. What is 
expected of the one spoken to? Why is he told instead of the third 
party? The interrelationships of third person imperatives in the NT^^ 
are classified as follows. 

Indirect Command to "You" 

Most of the third person imperatives are aimed indirectly at the 
one addressed and are therefore basically not much different from 
second person imperatives. 

Some part of you. The simplest and most obvious of these has 
the command addressed to some part or quality of the one spoken to. 
Matt 5:16 "let your light shine"; 6:10 "Thy will be done"; John 14:1 
"Let not your heart be troubled." These account for 7% of the third 
person imperatives. 

General command including you. The largest group (49%) of 
these shows an appeal addressed to the one spoken to as part of a 
general class. It seems clear that those spoken to are considered the 
ones for whom the command is intended. Matt 11:15, "He who has 
ears to hear, let him hear;" Mark 8:34, "If anyone wishes to come 
after me, let him deny himself;" Rom 14:3, "Let not him who eats 
regard with contempt him who does not eat." 

^'Matt 6:3, 24:17-18 (twice); Mark 13:15-16 (three times); Luke 17:31 (twice). In 
the light of these examples it is hard to understand a statement found in N. Turner, 
Syntax, 78, "The prohibitive aor. imperative is later than the NT. Horn quotes the first 
as iii/A.D.," unless he refers only to the second person imperative. All the NT 
examples are third person. 

'^There are 230; 196 are singular, 34 are plural. 


Your responsibility with regard to a third party. In this group 
the sense may be paraphrased by some such expression as "You 
require that he do something" or "You see to it that he does some- 
thing." While the actual doing may be by the third party, the one 
addressed is being asked to be responsible for its doing: Matt 27:22, 
"They all said, 'Let Him be crucified!'" The crowd was not asking 
permission of Pilate; they were telling him to see to it that it was 
done. Seventeen percent are classified thus. Some of these are a 
passive transform of a command that in the active voice would be 
second person imperative, as in Luke 7:7, "Let my servant be healed" 
(or "Heal my servant"). Some are quasi-passives, with the verb and a 
predicate adjective which together seem to form a periphrastic passive 
verb. Acts 2:14 toOto u|jiv yvcoaiov saico / 'Let this be known to 
you' (or 'know this'). The next phrase is connected by Kai and is a 
regular second person imperative. 

Your permission that someone else do something. The term 
"permission" is also used to include consent or acquiescence. Found 
mostly in prayers and requests, this group might be closest to the 
usual sense of the EngHsh expression used to translate it, "Let him do 
something" or "Let something be done." Matt 26:39, "Let this cup 
pass from me"; Col 3:16, "Let the word of Christ richly dwell within 
you." Ten percent can be placed in this group. 

Indirect Command to a Third Party 

Sometimes the imperative seems actually to be intended for the 
third party but addressed to the hearer or reader for his instruction. 
Many of these are threats or warnings, also challenges or invitations. 
There seems to be no implication that the hearer is to convey the 
message to the third party, or has any responsibility in the matter. 
Luke 16:29, "They have Moses. . . . Let them hear them." Luke 23:35, 
"Let him save himself." Jas 5:14, "Let him call for the elders of the 
church." Twelve percent of the total belong to this group. 

What is Required of a Third Party 

Only 3 passages fit in this category: 1 Tim 3:12 ("Let deacons be 
husbands of only one wife"). Matt 18:17, and 1 Tim 5:4. 

Promise or Warning of What Will Be 

Occurring usually with the verb ylvoiiai or slfj,!, this group (4%) 
serves as the announcement or prediction that something will happen, 
as in Matt 15:28, "Be it done for you as you wish," and Rom 11:9, 
"Let their table become a snare. . . . Let their eyes be darkened. . . ." 

boyer: a classification of imperatives 49 

Significance of a Passive Imperative 

On the surface there seems to be something strange about a 
passive imperative, a command addressed to someone who is not the 
doer of the action but its recipient. The inquirer is told to be bap- 
tized, to be saved, whereas he can do neither. A tree is told to "be 
plucked up and cast into the sea." What is the meaning conveyed by 
such a statement? 

Of all passive imperatives (154 examples in the NT), two cate- 
gories can be discerned: (1) Some seem to carry the meaning of 
permit: "allow it to happen," "receive it," "accept it," apparently 
asking no personal action from the one addressed. In Mark 1:41, 
Jesus says to a helpless leper, "Be cleansed." (2) Other passive impera- 
tives carry a responsibility for action: "see to it," "get it done," "do 
what needs to be done to bring it to pass," as in Rom 12:2, "Be 
transformed by the renewing of your mind." The Holy Spirit, of 
course, does the transforming (cf. 2 Cor 3:18), but there is the respon- 
sibility of renewing the mind. 

Out of this study has come another interesting and helpful obser- 
vation. There are three types of verbs involved in these passive 
imperatives. (1) Passive deponent verbs occur in the imperative." 
Passive in form by definition, they are active in sense, so there is 
nothing strange in the significance of the imperative. (2) Some passive 
imperatives are simply the passive transform of the active impera- 
tive,^'* so that they represent only another way of saying what might 
have been said in the active voice. In Mark 15:13-14 the cry of those 
who wished to kill Jesus is "Crucify him" in the active voice; in Matt 
27:22, 23 it is passive, "Let him be crucified," with no difference in 
meaning. The demand is addressed to the same person, and the one 
responsible for doing it is the same in both; only the way of saying it 
is different. (3) A large number of passive imperatives are of verbs 
that in the active voice are causative in sense, but in the passive they 
express the condition or state resulting from that action. ^^ To explain 
by illustration, the verb cpoPsco in the active voice in the older Greek 
meant "to frighten, to scare." In the passive it means "to be frightened. 

There are 21 deponent passive imperatives. The verbs involved are Y8vr|9fiT0) (8), 
Yevf|9riT8 (1), 7rop8u0r|Ti (4), 8£f|0r|T£ (3), 8efi0r|Ti (1), ajtoKpi0r|T8 (2), and one each 
87ii|ie>.f|0riTi, |ist£(i)pi^£o0e, eppcooOe. 

^■"There are 38 which I have so classified: al'pcD and KaOapi^o) have three each, 
Pd>LX.o), 0po8opai, and oTaupoco two each, and 24 others with one each. The list is 
available, see the asterisked note above. 

^^I have identified 95 in this group. The list is available, see above. Those occurring 
more than once are cpopeonai (28), Eyeipco (6), pinvfiaKco (6), uTioidaoo) (6), 7iX,avda) (4), 
Xaipoo (3), ev5uva|i6co (2), and Tapdaara (2). 


to be scared," or simply "to fear." Strictly speaking, it is not depo- 
nent, since the active does occur in Greek; but in effect it is a 
deponent verb referring to the condition caused by the action involved 
in the active form of the verb. This is a common phenomenon in 
Greek verbs, and many of the passive imperatives are of this type. Cf. 
also, sv5uva|x6a): active, "to make strong, to strengthen," passive, "to 
be strengthened, to receive strength;" ttsiGo): active, "to persuade," 
passive, "to be convinced, to be confident." Other verbs of this type 
shift from a transitive sense in the active to an intransitive sense in the 
passive. For example, )ii|ivf|aKa) in the active means "to remind" 
someone of something, in the passive it means "to remember" (i.e., 
"be reminded"); TuXavdco in the active is "to lead astray," in the 
passive it is "to go astray, to be deceived." Since these verbs, like 
deponents, have active meanings, their passive imperatives pose no 
problems in translating. 

Future Indicative Used as an Imperative 

That the future indicative is sometimes used for commands is 
beyond question, for the usual form of the Ten Commandments in 
the NT is future indicative. There is nothing strange about this; many 
languages, including English, have this usage. It simply tells someone 
what to do by saying, "You will do this." Two questions are under 
consideration here: (1) How can we identify or distinguish this from 
other uses of the future? and (2) Is there a difference in meaning 
between this construction and the imperatival command? 

How to Identify Future Indicatives 

Of all the future indicatives in the Greek NT (there are 1606), 53 
examples can be considered imperatival, with 4 questionable.^^ This 
of course involves personal judgment, and the list may vary from 
person to person. There is no mechanical way to recognize a com- 
mand; only the context can indicate it. And that is always an exe- 
getical judgment. 

Of the 53 possible instances, 39 (74%) were found in citations 
from the OT. Eleven were used in citations of the Ten Command- 
ments, although even here there is variety. "Honor your father and 
mother" is always expressed with the imperative, but the negative 
commandments are usually expressed with the future indicative 
(although in Luke 18:20 the aorist imperative is used). The rest of the 
OT citations vary from the "greatest command" of all (Matt 22:36- 
39) to the one forbidding the muzzling of an ox (1 Cor 9:9, 1 Tim 

'*The list is available, see above. 

boyer: a classification of imperatives 51 

5:18). Two of them probably are to be understood as permissive 
rather than demanding (Matt 22:24). Two could be considered simple 
future statements. The 14 possible examples that are not taken from 
OT citations also range from one that is in parallel construction with 
the "greatest" commandment (Matt 5:43) to one used by Pilate when 
he said "See to that yourself!" (Matt 27:4). 

Perhaps the nearest to a "rule" that might be deduced is that 
these future indicatives are nearly all in the second person. There are 
39 second singular, 9 second plural; the remaining 5 are third singular, 
and it is possible to consider all 5 of these to be simple future 
statements. ^^ One place where such a rule would be helpful is 1 John 
5:16, where the verb aixfiaei should be identified as a simple future 
statement of what a "brother" will do when he sees another brother in 
sin (that is, if he is really a brother — it is a test of "life"). 

The Significant Use of the Future Indicative 

While this construction undoubtedly shows the influence of the 
LXX on the language of the NT, it does not get thereby a quasi- 
religious or special significance. Jesus used it both in instructing the 
disciples what to say to some men they met in a village (Matt 21:3, 
Luke 19:31, 22:11) and to rebuke their ambition for rank (Mark 
9:35). A landowner used it to order his servant to cut down an 
unproductive tree (Luke 13:9). The OT law used it to forbid the use 
of muzzles on oxen when they were threshing the grain (1 Cor 9:9, 
1 Tim 5:18). In the light of these "common" uses, it is surprising to 
find the claim being made^* that "... the future indicative is used 
when the speaker wants to give a solemn, universal, or timeless 
command rather than an urgent, particular, or temporary com- 
mand . . . used for commands which are always proper to obey." 
Such language describes quite well the significance of a present im- 
perative, but not of the future indicative. 

What then is the significance of the future indicative when it is 
used to express a command? It is simply another indication of the 
enormous flexibility of language, its ability to say the same thing in 
many diff'erent ways. It has no "special" significance. 

Other Imperatival Constructions 

In addition to the aorist subjunctive in prohibitions and the 
future indicative, there are "other imperatival constructions," each 
needing separate treatment. There are three more ways of expressing 

'Matt 22:24 (two); Luke 2:23, 19:46; Heb 12:20. 
'D. Wallace, "Notes," 204-5. 


the imperatival idea that can be dealt with briefly but need to be 
mentioned. Grammarians have often warned against the terminology 
sometimes used in saying that something is "used for" something else, 
as if implying a conscious substitution. Rather, these varied methods 
of expressing the same or similar concepts are better seen as part of 
the richness and flexibility of the language. 

Imperatival Infinitive 

Classical Greek had a true imperatival infinitive use, but there 
are no examples in the NT that match the classical pattern for this 
construction, namely that the subject be present in the nominative 
case. Elsewhere, ^^ these have been dealt with in an attempt to support 
the position that the NT examples may all be satisfactorily explained 
as examples of ellipsis, the infinitive being one of indirect discourse 
depending upon a verb of speech understood from the context but 
not expressed. 

Imperatival Participle 

The situation is much the same here as with the infinitives. Those 
cases where the participle has been claimed to be imperatival may all 
be seen as elliptical expressions where an imperative form of the 
linking verb is to be supplied, thus making the participle a peri- 
phrastic imperative. "^^ 

"See my article, "The Classification of Infinitives: A Statistical Study" GTJ 6 
(1985) 14-15. 

""See my article, "The Classification of Participles: A Statistical Study" GTJ 5 
(1984) 173-74. Reference should be made here to a syntactical structure that has 
inaccurately been called an "imperatival participle." This structure involves the use of 
an adverbial participle with a main verb that is imperative, thus giving the participle an 
imperatival sense. Used primarily, if not solely, in the discussion of Matt 28:19, it 
involves the question whether "go" is a command parallel to "make disciples." 

There is nothing unusual about the grammatical structure of this passage; it is a 
simple adverbial (or circumstantial, as it is termed by some) participle modifying an 
imperative verb. Such adverbial participles express a wide variety of ideas; time, cause, 
manner, means, condition, concession, purpose, or any other "attendant circumstance." 
Which of these possible meanings was intended is always an interpretational choice, 
based on context. Time is most frequently indicated, next in order of frequency is the 
last one listed, the catch-all category called "attendant circumstance." This one is 
usually translated into English by two coordinate verbs connected by "and," as is the 
case with Matt 28:19 (KJV, NASB, NIV, RSV, etc.). 

Does the fact that the main verb is imperative automatically give an imperatival 
sense to the participle? The answer clearly is no. There are 93 examples of adverbial 
participles modifying imperative verbs in the NT. As an indication of their varied 
character the NASB translates them by English participles 18 times (thus preserving the 
anonymity of the original), by "when" (temporal) 7 times, by "as" (manner) 5 times, by 

boyer: a classification of imperatives 53 

Imperatival "Iva Clause 

There are examples where a I'va clause seems to express a com- 
mand; two are frequently cited. Eph 5:33, f\ 58 yuvf] I'va (popeiiai xov 
av5pa / 'And let the wife see to it that she respect her husband'; 
2 Cor 8:7 I'va Kai ev xaCiTi xr\ xapii^i- HEpiaoeCiiTe / 'See that you 
abound in this grace also'. The translation given here from the NASB 
demonstrates how easily these may be considered as ellipses of an 
easily supplied governing imperatival verb. There are many other 
examples of such ellipsis with I'va clauses/' although these others do 
not involve an imperative. 

The propriety of considering these other imperatival construc- 
tions to be elliptical should be judged in the light of the fact that 
Greek uses ellipsis of the verb much more easily than EngUsh. 

The "Rank Relationship " Involved with an Imperative 

One of the goals of this study was to investigate the "rank 
relationship" between the one using the imperative and the one to 
whom it is addressed. A coded listing was made identifying the 
speaker, the one spoken to, and the relative rank or level of authority 
between the two, for each imperative verb. These were sorted and 
counted by computer and some results are presented here."^ 

The persons were identified in specific terms and came under 
four general categories: (1) God [God, God's word. Holy Spirit, 
Jesus]; (2) heavenly beings [angels, demons, Satan]; (3) man [men 
generally, man's self, disciples, apostles, unbehevers]; and (4) things. 

"since" or "for" (causal) twice, by "if" (conditional) once, and by the coordinate verbs 
with "and" more than 50 times. Of these, 36 times the participle is of a "verb of 
motion" (in order of frequency, nopeuGeiq 12, dvdoTag 7, eyepBeic; 3, eXGcov 3, apag 2, 
dtTieXOcov 2, once each: Svdpag, eiae>t9(ov, e^s?t6(i)v, epxopEvoq, 7iape>i6cov; in English, 
"go," "come," "arise" or "rise," "sit down," "take"). Grammarians (Turner, Syntax, 
154; BDF, 216) speak of this as a pleonastic participle deriving from the Hebrew idiom 
which often puts both verbs in the imperative. "The aor. ptc. of nop. is oft. used 
pleonastically to enliven the narrative ... in any case the idea of going or traveling is 
not emphasized" (BAG, 699; cf. similar comment on dvdoxaq, 69). 

The reader is referred to two significant journal articles. Robert D. Culver, "What 
is the Church's Commission? Some Exegetical Issues in Matthew 28:16-20" {BSac 125 
[1968] 243-53), presents the normal "circumstantial participle" view. Cleon Rogers, 
"The Great Commission" {BSac 130 [1973] 258-67), presents the view that an impera- 
tival sense is to be seen from the Hebrew background which often used two imperatives 
in similar construction. If there is any "imperatival" sense in this participle it must 
come from the Hebrew, not from the Greek. Most have seen the Hebrew idiom as 
pleonastic, not imperatival. 

"Cf. John 1:8, 13:18, 15:25; 1 John 2:19, 37:1. See above. 

"^Statistics from this study are available, see above. 


The rank relationship was stated in three categories: the speaker 
(1) greater than, (2) less than, or (3) equal to the one spoken to. 

As expected, the vast majority (1416 of 1632, 87%) of imperatival 
statements were spoken by those who were greater in rank and 
authority than those to whom they spoke. Of these, 1310 are com- 
mands and 53 are requests. It is this relative rank that puts the force 
or pressure upon the hearer to obey, not the imperative itself or its 
tense. "^^ However, not all imperatives are from superiors; a signifi- 
cant number (170, or 10%) are spoken by those of lesser rank to 
their superiors, mostly in requests and prayers (116 instances), but 
even commands are addressed to superiors (47 instances where men 
addressed commands to Jesus, whose superior rank they did not 
recognize). Both commands and requests are addressed to equals 
(46 instances, 3%). 

There is no automatic or mechanical correspondence between 
relative rank and the imperative mood. The imperative expresses an 
appeal of will to will, whether it be command or request, "telling" or 
"asking." Only the context indicates which is intended, sometimes not 
too distinctly. 


The exegesis of the imperative mood, hke all exegesis, must be 
usage-oriented. This study has shown that the imperative mood has a 
wide latitude of possible meanings from which the exegete must 
choose the one which, in the light of the context, the speaker intended. 
This study has attempted to deal with many of the NT passages where 
questions have been raised about the meaning of an imperative verb, 
and to point to possible answers. It has expressed some warnings 
against several of the more commonly encountered errors in the 
exegesis of imperatives. The rich potential of the Greek language 
provides its user with a most flexible tool for expressing his thought. 
The exegete, therefore, must exercise considerable discipline in attend- 
ing to the full range of imperatival usage and in avoiding the errors of 
popular exegesis. He must resist the temptation to glamorize his 
translation while at the same time taking care to maximize his use of 
the contextual clues that will enrich that translation while keeping it 
faithful to the intent of the writer. 

"^See above, pp. 45-46. 

Grace TheologicalJournan.\ (1987)55- 




William A. Heth 

The possibility of remaining unmarried because of the claims and 
interests of the kingdom of God was clearly a desirable option for 
many of the early Christians. The practice of celibacy in the early 
church cannot simply be attributed to the ascetic atmosphere of the 
day. Both the concepts and terminology of Matt 19:12 stand behind 
this practice. The ability to remain continent in singleness was con- 
sidered to be a gift from God, and the one entrusted with that gift 
was exhorted to remember the Giver of it and not to think that his 
abilities were found in himself. The single person who feels called to a 
life of singleness for the sake of serving the Lord more fully may even 
be thought of as a sign that Christians are living in urgent times: the 
time between Christ's resurrection and his return. 


To Marry or Not to Marry? 

ALTHOUGH the majority of God's expectations are self-evident, a 
particularly disconcerting scriptural counsel concerns the advan- 
tages of remaining unmarried.' This option is especially intriguing for 

"The traditional [Roman Catholic] understanding of commands-counsels might 
be summarized as follows. Command has as its object a duty, i.e., an unconditional 
obligation. The fulfilment of such a command is an opus debitum; its nonfulfilment is a 
sin. Counsel is an invitation or suggestion which does not oblige, but leaves the 
decision up to the one invited (consilium in optione ponitur ejus cui datur). The 
fulfilment here is a work of supererogation and its nonfulfilment is a positive imperfec- 
tion" (J. W. Glaser, "Commands-Counsels: a Pauline Teaching?" TS 31 [1970] 275). 
Glaser's study focuses on statements made by Paul in 1 Corinthians 7. He argues that 
1 Corinthians 7 does not support the traditional commands-counsels teaching, and that 
it is doubtful that this teaching harmonizes with the major lines of Paul's theology 
(p. 286). Note in our overview of Paul's statements on singleness and marriage the 


two groups: those married Christians who are serious about the role 
they play in advancing the claims and interests of God's kingdom 
and, secondly, those Christians still contemplating marriage. The 
"singleness passages" in the NT lead the former group to struggle 
with the challenge of being effective disciples while maintaining a 
strong commitment to the demands of leading a family. For the latter 
group, these passages present either a personal dilemma or challenge: 
to marry or not to marry. The single person faces a dilemma because 
the single and the married state appear to be equally satisfactory 
lifestyles for the Christian. Not knowing which to choose, the single 
person, on the one hand, is confronted with the prospect of remaining 
single in a society — whether inside or outside the church — that con- 
siders marriage the norm. On the other hand, the scriptural counsel 
to remain single, found primarily in 1 Corinthians 7, may contain a 
challenge: those contemplating marriage^ are implicitly urged to view 
this question not primarily in the light of the "norm," but in the light 
of the contributions that they can make as Christ's disciples in a 
world that entangles married men and women in worldly concerns 
and troubles that could have been avoided had they remained single 
(cf. 1 Cor 7:28, 32-35). 

The Protestant Reaction to Celibacy 

The NT passages that advance the option of singleness are the 
very texts to which the Christian church has appealed from earliest 
times to encourage celibacy among its ministers (Matt 19:10-12; 
1 Cor 7:1-9, 25-40).^ But "celibacy" is a word that makes modern 

different words he employs to encourage or command a course of action. See further 
the study by P. W. Gooch, "Authority and Justification in Theological Ethics: A Study 
in I Corinthians 7," J RE 1 1 (1983) 62-74. 

^We could also include here those considering remarriage after the death of or 
divorce by a spouse. Paul's personal preference for the single state seems to extend to 
believers who find themselves in these situations as well (cf. 1 Cor 7:8-9, 39-40, 10-11 
[when reconciliation is not possible]). 

^Cf. E. H. Plumptre and L G. Smith, "Celibacy," A Dictionary of Christian 
Antiquities (ed. W. Smith and S. Cheetham), 1:323-27; G. Cross, "Celibacy (Chris- 
tian)," Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics (ed. J. Hastings), 3:271-75; P. Delhaye, 
"Celibacy, History of," NCE, 3:369-70; B. J. Leonard, "CeHbacy as a Christian 
Lifestyle in the History of the Church," RevExp 74 (1977) 21-32. P. Schdifi {History of 
the Christian Church [6th ed.; New York: Scribner's, 1892], 2:397) writes that "The old 
catholic exaggeration of celibacy attached itself to four passages of Scripture, viz. 
Matt. 19:12; 22:30; 1 Cor. 7:7 sqq.; and Rev. 14:4; but it went far beyond them, and 
unconsciously admitted influences from foreign modes of thought." Less than adequate 
interpretations of Luke 14:26-27 (cf. MaU 10:37-38), 18:29 (cf. Matt 19:29; Mark 
10:29), and esp. Luke 20:34-36 (cf. Matt 22:29-30; Mark 12:24-25), which played no 
small role in Marcionite asceticism (cf. D. E. Aune, The Cultic Setting of Realized 
Eschatology in Early Christianity [NovTSup 28; Leiden: Brill, 1972] 22, 195-219), also 
resulted in certain unhealthy practices among Christian ascetics. 

heth: unmarried "for the sake of the kingdom" 57 

Protestants uncomfortable. Ever since the Reformation when Martin 
Luther boldly broke from the Catholic Church, denounced compul- 
sory clerical celibacy as the work of the devil, and abandoned 
monastic vows for married life. Evangelicals in the Reformed tradi- 
tion have associated cehbacy with unscriptural excess. Did not Roman 
Catholicism forbid its clergy to marry? Paul told Timothy that for- 
bidding marriage was demonic (1 Tim 4:1-3). And is not cehbacy 
often an unnatural state, productive of grave disorders of the psycho- 
logical variety, and symptomatic of a self-centeredness that is anti- 
social?"* Though criticisms of the celibate lifestyle could be multiplied, 
these are sufficient to suggest that Protestants may have yielded to an 
opposite extreme. 

The average Christian has lost the context of the vicious — and 
probably well-motivated — Protestant attack on Catholic cehbacy at 
the time of the Reformation. These criticisms primarily were made in 
the face of the CathoUc practice of enforced clerical cehbacy,^ and not 
on celibacy/ singleness as a state in which the Christian might serve 
his Lord with fewer distractions. Calvin's perspective is found in his 
summary of Paul's statements about marriage and singleness in 
1 Corinthians 7: 

The whole discussion amounts to this. (1) Cehbacy is preferable to 
marriage, because it gives us freedom, and, in consequence better 
opportunity for the service of God. (2) Yet no compulsion should 
be used to prevent individuals from marrying, if they want to do so. 
(3) Moreover marriage itself is the remedy which God has provided for 
our weakness; and everybody who is not blessed with the gift of 
continency ought to make use of it. Every person of sound judgment 
will agree with me in saying that the whole of Paul's teaching on 
marriage is summed up in these three sentences.* 

Apologists for celibacy as a vocation in life have felt compelled to refute such 
accusations. See the foreword by T. Worden in L. Legrand, The Biblical Doctrine of 
Virginity (New York: Sheed & Ward, 1963), ix-x. 

^"The Reformed tradition, in its criticism of the celibacy that is compulsory for the 
priesthood in the Western Church, was led without noticing it to consider Christian 
celibacy as something quite out of the ordinary and decidedly odd" (M. Thurian, 
Marriage and Celibacy [trans. N. Emerton; Studies in Ministry and Worship; London: 
SCM 1959] 85; cf. Cross, ERE 3:275; Leonard, "Celibacy as a Christian Lifestyle," 28). 
Though the tendency towards clerical celibacy set in very early, the absolute prohibi- 
tion of clerical marriage did not come in the Western Church until the twelfth century. 

J. Calvin, The First Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Corinthians (trans. J. W. 
Fraser; Calvin's Commentaries; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1960) 167. Calvin is wrong, 
however, when he states that Paul sees marriage as a remedy against incontinence for 
the never-before-married. In I Cor 7:1-7 Paul is addressing married couples who are 
abstaining from normal marital relations, as Origen ("Origen on I Corinthians," ed. 
C. Jenkins, JTS 9 [1907-8] 500-501) understood long ago. Cf. also Thurian, Marriage 
and Celibacy, 90-91. 


By focusing on the negative aspects of celibacy within Cathoh- 
cism, Protestants have neglected to define how Jesus' saying about 
"eunuchs" for the kingdom's sake and Paul's counsels to singleness in 
1 Corinthians 7 apply to the believer today. One writer remarks that 
"in Protestantism, where marriage has been more nearly normative 
for clergy as well as for laymen, little scholarly attention has been 
given to ceHbacy or the larger subject of the single person."^ 

Singleness: Problem or Potential? 

It is not surprising that evangelical seminaries train their future 
pastors in the discipline of marriage counseling. Yet scarcely a word 
is said about counseling someone to remain single, if they are able,* 
for the express purpose of rendering a more devoted service to the 
Lord. Both the secular society at large and the Christian church as a 
whole treat singleness, practically speaking, as something of an 
accursed condition (to overstate the case). The same seems to have 
been true in ancient times as well. A Sumerian proverb from ca. 
2600 B.C. states: "He that supports no wife, he that supports no son, 
may his misfortunes be multiplied."^ We read in the intertestamental 
Jewish literature that 

He who acquires a wife gets his best possession, a helper fit for him and 
a pillar of support. Where there is no fence, the property will be 
plundered; and where there is no wife, a man will wander about and 
sigh [Sir 36:24-25]. 

A daughter keeps her father secretly wakeful, and worry over her robs 
him of sleep; when she is young lest she do not marry, or if married, 
lest she be hated [divorced]; while a virgin, lest she be defiled or 
become pregnant in her father's house; or having a husband, lest she 
prove unfaithful, or, though married, lest she be barren [Sir 42:9-10].'° 

In the Talmudic period, at the end of the first century a.d., Rabbi 
Eliezer Ben Hyrcanus stated that "Anyone who does not engage in 

F. Stagg, "Biblical Perspectives on the Single Person," RevExp 74 (1977) 5. 

*We cannot discuss here the question of how a Christian can discover whether or 
not God has enabled him to live a life of singleness for the sake of the kingdom. On 
this subject see Thurian, Marriage and Celibacy, 86-88, 92-94. L. M. Weber ("Celi- 
bacy," in Encyclopedia of Theology: The Concise Sacramentum Mundi\zd. K. Rahner; 
New York: Seabury, 1975] 183) believes that "celibacy is probably not one of the 
charisms which is either there or not, but one of those which may also be striven for, 
according to the counsel of the Apostle Paul (1 Cor 12:31)." 

'Cf. W. G. Lambert, "Celibacy in the World's Oldest Proverbs," BASOR 169 
(1963) 63. 

^°RSV {The Oxford Annotated Bible with the Apocrypha [ed. H. G. May and 
B. M. Metzger; New York: Oxford, 1965]). Cf. A. Cronbach, "Ethics in Noncanonical 
Jewish Writings," IDB, 2:164. 

heth: unmarried "for the sake of the kingdom" 59 

the propagation of the race is as though he sheds blood" {b. Yebam. 
63b). Another rabbi said, "Any man who has no wife lives without 
joy, without blessing, and without goodness" (b. Yebam. 62b). The 
rabbis unanimously taught that it was a duty for every Israelite to 
marry and have children. There is only one known instance of a 
celibate rabbi: Ben "^Azzai. Yet even Ben '^Azzai proclaimed the duty 
to marry as a command.'' 

Throughout the history of man it has been assumed that one of 
his foremost duties is to marry, an assumption based largely on the 
command that men and women "be fruitful and multiply, and fill the 
earth" (Gen 1:28).'^ In the OT the institutions of marriage and the 
family were extremely important because in that period God used a 
particular race, the Israelites, as a vehicle for accomplishing his 
redemptive purpose.'^ The Messiah was destined to come through the 
seed of Abraham (Gen 17:8; Gal 3:16) and the line of David (Matt 
1:1-16; Luke 1:32-33, 68-70; 2:4; 3:23-38; John 7:42). But the reli- 
gious importance of physical descent (cf. Rom 9:5, 3b) has ended 
with the coming of Jesus (cf. Gal 3:26-29; 6:15). We have entered a 
new era in which niarriage — though still spoken of as a sacred institu- 
tion (Matt 19:4-6; Eph 5:22-33; Rev 19:7-9)— is not as decisive for 
the coming of the Kingdom as it was in the OT. Paul states clearly 
that marriage belongs to the form of this world that is passing away 
(1 Cor 7:29-31).''' Jesus said that in the world to come the institution 
of marriage would no longer exist (Matt 22:30; Mark 12:25; Luke 
20:34-36). And though "for the sake of the kingdom" the people of 
God in the OT married and bore children, a new economy has been 
inaugurated by the life and words of Jesus Christ: there are Christians 
who will remain unmarried "for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. 
He who is able to accept this let him accept it" (Matt I9:l2c-d). 

"Cf. J. Jeremias, "Nochmals: War Paulus Witwer?" ZNW 2S (1929) 321-23, esp. 
p. 323. Also J. Schneider, "ewoOxo?," TDNTl (1964) 767. 

^^NASB translation and so throughout unless indicated otherwise. 

'^Note that Isa 56:3-5 prophesies of a time when eunuchs will no longer be 
excluded (cf. Deut 23:1) from God's kingdom blessings. The eunuch in this passage 
calls himself "a dry tree" (v 3), because everyone in Israel would complain that he is not 
able to contribute offspring to the community of God. 

'"in Paul's teaching, Jesus' messianic reign began with his resurrection and exalta- 
tion. So the Christian lives in the tension of the already of Christ's resurrection (in 
which the blessings of the age to come are now partly available) and the not yet of his 
parousia (when the fullness of our promised salvation is realized) (cf. G. E. Ladd, A 
Theology of the New Testament [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1974] 369-73, 479-94; 
H. Ridderbos, Paul: An Outline of His Theology [trans. J. R. De Witt; Grand Rapids: 
Eerdmans, 1975] 52-53). Thus in this age of the church, singleness for the kingdom's 
sake could be considered as a prophetic (eschatological) sign, a reminder that the 
Christian should not become too attached to the things of this world (cf. Thurian, 
Marriage and Celibacy, 112-15). 


So in the eyes of Paul, in light of the coming eternal state, and 
because of the intercalary character of the kingdom in these last days 
(cf. Heb 1:2), marriage should not be the only possibility that Chris- 
tian leaders set before unmarried believers eager to serve Christ. 
Goppelt makes a provocative remark about the new state of affairs 
introduced by the coming of Jesus Christ. 

Things do not merely revert back to the first creation [cf. Matt 19:4, 
86]. The kingdom of God brings the consummation as a new creation, 
and does not simply reinstate the original one. It is for this reason that 
Jesus summoned people then and there on behalf of the kingdom of 
God to forsake not only evil, but also the forms of existence bound to 
the first creation. There are men, e.g., who "become eunuchs for the 
sake of the kingdom of heaven," i.e., they forgo marital union as did 
Jesus himself (Mt. 19:12).'^ 

What place does the single person have in the Christian church 
today? Evangelical Protestants have not answered this question ade- 
quately. Little attention has been given to developing a biblical 
theology of singleness. Evangelicals also have seemingly overlooked a 
great potential for advancing the cause of Christ in this age, namely, 
a life free from matrimonial ties. Some may well choose not to marry 
because the claims and interests of God's kingdom have so captivated 
their lives (cf. Matt 13:44-46) that they desire to invest their time and 
energy in that kingdom to the maximum extent possible. 

The Purpose of This Study 

This study is concerned with certain passages in the NT that 
seem to counsel a life of singleness for the sake of better serving 
Christ in this age, and in particular, how these texts were understood 
and applied by early Christian writers prior to a.d. 220. A brief 
survey of a number of Paul's statements on singleness and marriage 
will be presented in an attempt to surface some of the problems they 
raise. It will become clear that at an early date individual Chris- 
tians were voluntarily taking up the challenge couched in the words 
of Jesus in Matt 19:12 to become "eunuchs" because of the claims 
and interests of God's kingdom. The accuracy of the statement by 
Baus, found in the first volume of Jedin's superb History of the 
Church, should become evident: "Christians of both sexes who re- 
nounced marriage, who dissociated themselves more than others from 
secular life, yet remained with their families and put themselves at the 

"L. Goppelt, Theology of the New Testament (trans. J. E. Alsup; ed. J. Roloff; 
2 vols.; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1981-82), 1:73. 

heth: unmarried "for the sake of the kingdom" 61 

service of the Christian community, are not found for the first time in 
the third century."'^ 


1 Corinthians 7:1-7, 25-28 

Some of Paul's remarks about remaining single seem to place the 
celibate/ single person on a higher spiritual plane than the married. 
Some writers plainly say that Paul thinks of marriage as a "lesser of 
two evils," '^ or that celibacy is the ideal condition,'* and marriage is a 
concession to man's sinful inability to rise above his lower instincts 
and realize the ideal. '^ Schillebeeckx claims that "anyone who denies 
that Paul, deeply concerned as he was for the kingdom of God, did 
not regard a life of complete abstinence as the ideal state is bound to 
do violence to these texts. "^° 

Take for example 1 Cor 7:1-2, translated by the NIV sls follows: 
"Now for the matters you wrote about: It is good for a man not to 
marry. But since there is so much immorality, each man should have 
his own wife, and each woman her own husband." It appears from 
this translation that Paul begins with the assumption that singleness 
is to be preferred over marriage. But if a single person is likely to fall 
into immorality, what course of action should the Christian take? 
Many would likely say that in this situation the Christian should 
avoid immorality (the greater evil) and go ahead and marry (the lesser 
evil) if he is not able to accompUsh the ideal, celibacy.^' 

Consider the contrast between Paul's statement that "it is good 
for a man not to marry" and God's creation statement, "It is not good 
for a man to be alone; I will make a helper suitable for him" (Gen 
2:18). Some might ask whether Paul feels that the coming of God's 
kingdom in the Messiah has somehow affected the normal creation 
order. (Note the remark by Goppelt above.) 

K. Baus, From the Apostolic Community to Constantine (vol. 1 of History of 
the Church; ed. H. Jedin and J. Dolan; New York: Crossroad, 1982) 295. 

'^Cf. E. Stauffer, "yaneo)," TDNT 1 (1964) 652; D. L. Dungan, The Sayings of 
Jesus in the Churches of Paul (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1971) 86. For a good overview 
of primarily French and German works on Paul's teaching in 1 Corinthians 7 see 
A. Peters, "St. Paul and Marriage," 4/''/ca« Ecclesiastical Review 6 (1964) 214-24. 

'*Cf. Legrand, Virginity, 98; C. H. Giblin, "1 Corinthians 7— A Negative Theology 
of Marriage and Celibacy?" TBTAX (1969) 2839-55. 

"Cf. D. Daube, "Concessions to Sinfulness in Jewish Law," 7/5 10 (1959) 11-12. 

^"E. Schillebeeckx, Marriage: Human Reality and Saving Mystery (trans. N. D. 
Smith; 2 vols, in 1; New York: Sheed and Ward, 1965) 130. 

^'For a proper understanding of 1 Cor 7:1-7 see V. P. Furnish, The Moral 
Teaching of Paul (Nashville: Abingdon, 1979) 30-39; and G. D. Fee, "1 Corinthians 
7:1 in the NIV," JETS 23 (1980) 307-14. 


Then after Paul encourages those who are married to render to 
one another full conjugal rights (1 Cor 7:3-5), another problem arises. 
He adds that what he says is "by way of concession (Kaia auy- 
yvcb|iTiv), not of command (Kax' snixayfiv)" (7:6). What is Paul 
conceding here? Some believe that he is conceding sexual relations to 
the married person who lacks self-control — that is, who ideally should 
abstain from marital relations — as Jerome believed. ^^ That some 
married Christians were encouraged to remain continent or exercise 
self-control (f| syKpateia) to the extent that they lived together with 
their wives as sisters is found as early as the Shepherd of Hermas {ca. 
A.D. 90-140).^^ And what does Paul mean when he sums up his 
remarks in 1 Cor 7:1-7 by adding that he wishes (QeXoi) that all men 
could remain single or continent like himself (v 7)? Yet he recognizes 
that each man is given a different gift or ability by God. 

Though Paul has much to say about the practical benefits of 
remaining single, he states in 1 Cor 7:25 that he has no "command" 
or "disposition" (s7iixayf|) from the Lord on this subject. Since Paul 
has already appealed to the Lord's command not to separate or 
divorce (vv 10-11), commentators appropriately ask why Paul did 
not, if he knew of the Lord's saying in Matt 19:12, allude to it here in 
support of his apparent preference for the single state. One answer to 
this question is given by Balducelli: 

The grammar of the text [Matt 19:12] is declaratory ("there are 
eunuchs . . ."), not exhortatory or prescriptive. And the parting words, 
"Let anyone accept this who can" (v. 12d), which are exhortatory, are 

^^Jerome, Against Jovinianus 1.7 (NPNF, 2nd series, 6:352). Cf. Schillebeeckx, 
Marriage, 126-27; and W. Grundmann, "syKpaTeia," TDNT 2 (1964) 342. Furnish 
(Moral Teaching, 36), however, understands Paul better: "In 1 Corinthians 7:5 Paul 
recognizes that sexual abstinence may have a place within marriage, but only under 
three conditions: that it be temporary, that it be by mutual agreement, and that it be 
for prayer. Otherwise, as in the more extreme case of celibate marriages, one may be 
tempted to seek the fulfillment of one's sexual desires elsewhere, and that would be 
immoral. It is probable that this allowance for temporary sexual abstinence within 
marriage is the 'concession' (RSV) of which the Apostle speaks in verse 6, even though 
many have taken that as a reference to marriage itself." 

^^I believe a reading of the following passages in Hermas should confirm this: 
Herm. Vis. 1.1.1-9; 1.2.4; 2.2.3; 2.3.1; 3.8.4; Herm. Sim. 9.2.3; 9.10.7; 9.11.1-8; 9.15.2 
(on the twelve virgins), and Herm. Sim. 9.9.5; 9.13.8-9; 9.15.3 (on the twelve evil 
women clothed in black). The women are allegorized in the Similitudes and represent 
key virtues and vices. Note that the names of the second virgin ('EyKpotTeia, cf. Vis. 
3.8.4) and the second woman clothed in black ('AKpaaia) are subjects Paul discusses in 
I Cor 7:5, 9. When we consider that Hermas is told that he will live with his wife as a 
sister {Herm. Vis. 2.2.3; cf. 2.3.1), it looks very much like the faithful, temperate 
Hermas is being told to abstain from marital relations. On the date of Hermas see 
J. Quasten, Patrology (3 vols.; Westminster, MD: Newman, 1950-60), 1:92-93. J. A. T. 
Robinson {Redating the New Testament [Philadelphia: Westminster, 1976] 319-22) 
would date Hermas ca. a.d. 85 at the latest. 

heth: unmarried "for the sake of the kingdom" 63 

not an exhortation to accept celibacy but to "accept" what has been 
said about it ("this"), namely, that it has happened. This explains why 
Paul, who so outspokenly promotes his own appreciation of celibacy 
(1 Cor 7:1, 7-8), is not in a position to canonize that appreciation by 
tracing it back to a direct endorsement ("disposition") of the Lord 
(1 Cor 7:25).^' 

Nevertheless, if Paul knew of a saying of the Lord similar to that 
contained in Matt 19:12, one may ask why he did not say "I have no 
command from the Lord, but I do have his counsel to all who can 
take it."^^ This, of course, assumes that the topic (cf. Tiepi 5s, v 25) to 
which Paul responds in 1 Cor 7:25-38 concerns single men (vv 27- 
28fl, 32-34a) and women (vv 28^, 34b) who are questioning whether 
they should marry. 

Paul proceeds to say that even though getting married is not a 
sin (v 28a; cf. v 36) for these "virgins" (t(ov 7rap0EV(ov, gen. pi.; v 25), 
he strongly discourages it "in view of the present distress" (v 26), the 
shortening of the time (v 29), and because of the simple fact that the 
married state brings with it cares and concerns for the things of the 
world (vv 32-34).^^ Paul's supreme desire in all of this is brought out 
in V 35: "And this I say for your own benefit (au|j,(popov);^^ not to put 
a restraint upon you, but to promote what is seemly, and to secure 
undistracted devotion to the Lord." The degree to which Paul's 
counsels on marriage and singleness are influenced by his eschato- 
logical expectations remains to be seen. But whatever he means by 
"the present distress" (xfiv sveaxcoaav dvdyKriv),^* one of Paul's 

''R. Balducelli, "The Decision for Celibacy," TS 36 (1975) 225-26. 

"Cf. Q. Quesnell, "'Made Themselves Eunuchs for the Kingdom of Heaven' (Mt 
19,12)," CBQ 30 (1968) 341, n. 10. In response to Quesnell, if Paul had appealed to a 
saying of the Lord that suggested refraining from marriage it could have been used by 
the sexual ascetics in Corinth (cf. J. C. Hurd, Jr., The Origin of I Corinthians [new ed.; 
Macon, GA: Mercer University, 1983] 155-68) to support their extreme practices. 
1 Tim 4:1-3 and the Corinthians' position reflected in 1 Corinthians 7 is evidence that 
those who frowned upon marriage did not wait to make their appearance until the 
Apostles passed away. 

^^"It is not that celibacy is a peaceful state in which one lives far from the world's 
worries; it is just a question of choosing between a life exclusively devoted to the cares 
of the Christian ministry . . . and a life divided between two sorts of preoccupations, 
both willed by God, that of the cares of marriage and that of the cares of the Church" 
(Thurian, Marriage and Celibacy, 106-7). 

^'Stauffer (TDNT 1:652, n. 27) believes that Paul himself is conscious of being one 
of the euvoO/oi 5ia T-pv Paoi^^eiav (Matt 19:12) and finds the aujxcpspsi of Matt 19:10 
here in 1 Cor 7:35. "It is a technical term for the orientation of ethics to the final goal 
of calling. Cf. Mt. 5:29 f.; 1 C. 6:12; 10:23; 10:33." 

^*I am inclined to believe that Paul is simply referring to the "afflictions which 
derive from the tension between the new creation in Christ and the old cosmos" 
(W. Grundmann, "dvdyKri," TDNT 1 [1964] 346), a tension all believers face in the 
present church age. Cf. Ridderbos, Paul, 310-11. 


primary reasons for advocating singleness is for the sake of the Lord's 
work: more can be accompUshed by the single person. (Indeed, Chris- 
tians today often expect their married pastor to do the work of a 
single person, i.e., as if he did not have the obligations of a married 
man!) The fact that the time is short (v 29) simply means that the 
work is urgent. Therefore, remaining single for the sake of the Lord's 
work is a valid motive for Christians today however one might 
understand Paul's eschatological perspective. 

The problem of whom Paul is addressing in 1 Cor 7:36-38 
further complicates the status of the married in Paul's thinking.^' 
According to traditional exegesis, Paul is giving advice to Christian 
fathers who are anxious about their unmarried daughters (cf. NASB, 
JB).^° Should they arrange marriages for them or not? Others believe 
that Paul is describing a kind of spiritual or celibate marriage in 
which couples live together without having sexual relations.^' 
Moffatt's translation reflects this view: 

At the same time if any man considers that he is not behaving 
properly to the maid who is his spiritual bride, if his passions are 
strong and if it must be so, then let him do what he wants — let them be 
married; it is no sin for him. But the man of firm purpose who has 
made up his mind, who, instead of being forced against his will, has 
determined to himself to keep his maid a spiritual bride — that man will 
be doing the right thing. Thus both are right, alike in marrying and in 
refraining from marriage, but he who does not marry will be found to 
have done better [cf. NEB also]. 

Still another view has been argued by Ford.^^ She offers linguistic 
evidence" to support her contention that napQivoq in 1 Cor 7:25-38 

Hurd (Origin, 169-81) discusses these verses in detail and provides good biblio- 
graphical material for three of the four views mentioned here. The references I give in 
the next few notes are not found in Hurd. 

'"Clement of Alexandria {Stromata 3.12.79; LCC 2:76) seems to understand the 
passage in this way. 

^'Cf. H. Achelis, "Agapetae," ERE, 1:179; Thurian, Marriage and Celibacy, lli-ll; 
R. H. Seabolt, "Spiritual Marriage in the Early Church: A Suggested Interpretation of 
1 Cor. 7:36-38," CTM 30 (1959) 103-19, 176-89; G. Delling, "jrapGevoq," TDNT 5 
(1967) 836; Hurd, Origins, 169-82. 

"j. M. Ford, "Levirate Marriage in St Paul (1 Cor vii)," NTS 10 (1964) 361-65; 
and "St Paul, the Philogamist (1 Cor. vii in Early Patristic Exegesis)," NTS 11 (1965) 
326-48. I know of no other writer who champions Ford's position. 

"Ford's ("Levirate Marriage," 363) appeal to the use of the cognate noun in Ign. 
Smyrn. 13:1 is initially convincing. Ignatius concludes his letter by saying: "I salute the 
families of my brethren with their wives and children, and the maidens who are called 
widows (Ktti xhq nap9evoD(; xac, X-eyonevaq xilP"?)" {The Apostolic Fathers, LCL 
1:267). But neither Ford nor C. C. Richardson, whose translation of this text and 
appended note (LCC 1:116) seem to support Ford's understanding, refer to J. B. 

heth: unmarried "for the sake of the kingdom" 65 

should be translated "widow" and that vv 36-38 discuss the case of a 
widowed sister-in-law. The Corinthians want to know if they are 
bound by the Jewish custom of levirate marriage/'* Finally, the view 
recently argued by Baumert is that the whole of vv 25-38 refers to 
engaged couples (cf. RSV, NIV)/'^ The question the engaged men are 
asking Paul (most likely because they have come under the influence 

Lightfoot's extensive discussion of this problem {The Apostolic Fathers [Part II, 2: 
5. Ignatius S. Polycarp; London: n.p. 1889; reprint; Hildesheim/New York: Georg 
01ms, 1973] 'ill-lA). The texts that Lightfoot cites in support of his interpretation of 
Ign. Smyrn. 13:1 ("I salute those women whom, though by name and in outward 
condition they are widows, I prefer to call virgins, for such they are in God's sight by 
their purity and devotion") show that the self-control associated with the literal state of 
virginity finds expression in other states. Virginity or celibacy has long been associated 
with the graced-ability to remain continent in the sexual area (cf. Paul in 1 Cor 7:1-9), 
and now other states (continency within marriage and in widowhood) are likened to 
the literal condition of virginity. "Virgin" and "virginity" can be used figuratively in 
Scripture (cf. 2 Cor 11:2; Rev 14:4). One passage from Clement's Stromata (3.16.101; 
LCC 2:88) will help to illustrate these ideas: "There are also some now who rank the 
widow higher than the virgin in the matter of continence (eyKpateiav), on the ground 
that she scorns pleasure of which she has had experience." 

'"TertulUan {To His Wife 1.7; ACW 13:20) does understand 1 Cor 7:28 to say that 
a widow does not sin in remarrying even though there is no explicit reference to 
widows in this text. Ford devotes 1 1 of nearly 23 pages in her article ("St Paul, the 
Philogamist," 331-42) to Tertullian's works and the possible Jewish background of 
Montanism, which he later adopted. Though Tertullian could be cited in favor of the 
father-daughter view of 1 Cor 7:36-38, Ford thinks his exegesis of 1 Corinthians 7 is 
inconclusive and that what he does say lends credence to her understanding that 1 Cor 
7:25-38 concerns widows, and in particular, the question of levirate marriage. But 
Ford should probably not press too far Tertullian's use of this passage in support of 
her levirate marriage view. What Paul says in 1 Cor 7:25-35 could be applied to the 
situation of a widow who is completely free from matrimonial ties. TertulHan's own 
principle of interpretation is that "No enunciation of the Holy Spirit ought to be 
(confined) to the subject immediately in hand merely, and not applied and carried out 
with a view to every occasion to which its application is useful" {On the Apparel of 
Women 2.2.5 [ANF4:19; cf. FC 40:132]). 

^^N. Baumert, Ehelosigkeit und Ehe im Herrn: Eine Neuinterpretation von 1 Kor 7 
(Forschung zur Biebel; Wiirzburg: Echter, 1984) 161-310. Cf. W. F. Beck, "1 Corinth- 
ians 7:36-38," CrM 25 (1954) 370-72; C. S. C. Williams, "I and II Corinthians," PCB 
§834e; G. Schrenk, "Oarma," TDNT3 (1965) 60-61; J. K. ElUott, "Paul's Teaching on 
Marriage in 1 Corinthians: Some Problems Considered," NTS 19 (1973) 219-25; and 
D. E. Garland, "The Christian's Posture Toward Marriage and Celibacy: 1 Corinthians 
7," RevExp 80 (1983) 351-62. A fifth view is defended, unsuccessfully in my opinion, 
by J. F. Bound ("Who Are the 'Virgins' Discussed in 1 Corinthians 7:25-38?" Evan- 
gelical Journal 2 [1984] 3-15). Vv 25-28 and vv 36-38 are talking about "male virgins," 
and in vv 36-38 the issue is whether they are able to control their own sexual passions 
and keep their condition of "virginity" (T-pv eauToC TiapOsvov). Early support for this 
allegorical interpretation of a man keeping his own "flesh virgin" is found in Methodius 
of Olympus (ca. a.d. 270), The Symposium: A Treatise on Virginity 3.14 (ANF 6:322- 
23; ACW 27:73-74). 


of the ascetic teaching current in Corinth) is whether or not they 
should fulfill their promise of marriage. 

1 Corinthians 7:8-9, 39-40 and 1 Timothy 5:14 

As if the status of the married were not complicated enough, 
Paul takes up the issue of the remarriage of widows (and widowers). 
Paul's closing comments in 1 Corinthians appear to be an afterthought 
to 7:8-9, a passage in which Paul gives directions to widowers^^ and 
widows who cannot control their sexual desires: they may marry 
again. In 1 Cor 7:39-40 Paul adds a final counsel that the widow, 
whom he permits to remarry, would in his opinion {yv(£)\xr\; cf. v 25) 
be happier if she remained in a state of singleness. Yet in another 
context (1 Tim 5:14) Paul says that he wants ((3ou?iO|j,ai) younger 
widows to get married, bear children, and keep house. ^^ Here Paul 
seems to say the exact opposite of his clearly stated preference in 
1 Cor 7:40 that widows would do better not to marry again. Does 
Paul's preference for the single state extend even to widows and 

Scholars like Dibelius and Conzelmann, who are convinced that 
the Pastoral Epistles are deutero-Pauline documents, offer one solu- 
tion to this apparent inconsistency: Paul's attitude in 1 Corinthians 7 
is eschatologically determined and is completely different from the 
point of view in 1 Timothy 5. There "the world is expected to endure, 
and taking root in it is desirable."^* This, of course, is not an 
acceptable option for those who accept the Pastorals as Paul's letters 
and assume that Paul maintained a consistent eschatological view- 
point throughout his ministry. 

On the other hand, the 1 Tim 5:14 passage is often cited by 
Evangelicals to show that Paul happily permits second marriages after 
the death of a spouse (despite his judgment to the contrary in 1 Cor 
7:40), thereby distancing him from the early fathers like Hermas and 
Clement of Alexandria (ca. 150-215)^^ who discouraged second mar- 

^^The fact that aya^ioc, is masculine in v 8 and linked with "widows," that neither 
the LXX or the NT use the Greek term for "widower," and that Paul does not discuss 
the never-before-married until v 25, suggests that loic; dyd|ioi(^ should be translated 
"widowers," and yaiieco in v 9 means "marry again." "Ayajaoc; {"unmarried, single, prop, 
of the man, whether bachelor or widower," LSJ 5) is a fluid term for Paul (1 Cor 7:8, 
1 1, 32, 34) and must be contextually defined. 

"R. Kugelman ("The First Letter to the Corinthians," JBC 2:266) states that 
Paul's advice in 1 Cor 7:40 "does not contradict 1 Tm 5:14, which treats of young 
widows of unstable continency." 

'*M. Dibelius and H. Conzelmann, The Pastoral Epistles (Hermeneia; Phila- 
delphia: Fortress, 1972) 76. 

^^Stromata 3.12.82 (LCC 2:78-79). Clement notes that the death of a spouse may 
indicate God's purpose for an individual "by which he has become free from distraction 
for the service of the Lord." 

heth: unmarried "for the sake of the kingdom" 67 

riages but did not call them sinful. Hernias writes in Mandate 4.4.1-2: 

Once more I spoke and asked him: "Sir, since you have borne with 
me once, make this also clear to me." "What is it?" he said. "Sir," I 
said, "if a wife or husband is deceased and either one of the survivors 
marries again, does he or she sin by remarrying?" "There is no sin," he 
said. "But, anyone who remains single achieves greater honor for 
himself and great glory before the Lord. But, even in remarriage, there 
IS no sm. 

The question that must be asked of the usual evangelical estimate of 
Paul's attitude toward second marriages is how does it compare with 
Paul's own words on the subject? 

Evangelical commentators who cite 1 Tim 5:14 as evidence of 
Paul's unqualified approval of second marriages after the death of a 
spouse have neglected to study the wider context of 1 Timothy 5 
where Paul expresses his desire that young widows should remarry. 
Paul's words in 1 Tim 5:11-12 suggest that (some/all?) young widows 
made "an express renunciation of second marriage, ratified by a 
vow""*' (cf. V 12, f[ np(bxr\ niaxK;). Paul says that certain frivolous 
younger widows "set aside" (ciGsto)) "this pledge" when they feel 
sensual desires in disregard of Christ and wish to get married (v 11), 
thereby "incurring condemnation" (E^ouaai Kpi|xa). Kelly observes 
that the language of v 11 "suggests that Christ is thought of as a 
spiritual bridegroom (cf. 2 Cor xi. 2). Hence the desire to marry 
again, natural enough in young women who have lost their husbands, 
is in effect an act of unfaithfulness to him."''^ 

In addition to Paul's negative estimation of such sensual desires, 
he says that these young widows become gossips and busybodies, 
going from house to house (their duty as congregational widows?).'*^ 

FC 1:265. This is not the only place where Hermas seems to encourage works of 
supererogation (cf. Herm. Sim. 5.2.7; 5.3.3, 8). 

"G. Stahlin, "xripa," TDNT 9 (1974) 454 and nn. 136-37. Cf. S. Solle, "xripa," 
NIDNTT3 (197$) 1075. 

''^J. N. D. Kelly, A Commentary on the Pastoral Epistles (N.p.: 1963; reprint; 
Grand Rapids: Baker, 1981) 117. Cf. C. J. Ellicott, Commentary on the Pastoral 
Epistles (2nd ed.; Boston: Draper and Halliday, 1861; reprint; Minneapolis: James 
Family, 1978) 88-89; A. T. Hanson, The Pastoral Epistles (NCBC; Grand Rapids: 
Eerdmans, 1982) 98-99. W. Hendriksen (Exposition of The Pastoral Epistles [NTC; 
Grand Rapids: Baker, 1979] 176) believes the pledge the young widows made was "to 
the church, namely, to continue in the work of the Lord." But Kelly's interpretation is 
more probable. 

"'Cf. Stahlin, TDNT 9:456-57; Dibelius and Conzelmann, Pastoral Epistles, 75; 
Kelly, Pastoral Epistles, 118. A. Oepke ("ywrj," TDNT 1 [1964] 788), however, does 
not believe that the "house to house" remark in v 13 is a reference to pastoral visitation 
duties performed by the qualifying members of this group. C. C. Ryrie (The Role of 
Women in the Church [N.p., 1958; reprint; Chicago: Moody, 1970] 83-84) discusses 


This is the point at which Paul says that younger widows should 
marry (v I4a). The result of this course of action is that the enemy 
will be given no occasion for reproach (v 146; cf. 1 Tim 3:7). Thus the 
context of Paul's recommendation that young widows should marry 
again hardly seems to support the contemporary evangelical opinion 
(often supported by an indiscriminate appeal to 1 Tim 5:14) that Paul 
happily approves the remarriage of widow or widower/"* Various 
commentators have stated that the principle of the lesser of two evils 
lurks in the background, namely in the motive provided in v I4b: 
"give the enemy no occasion for reproach."'*^ 

Some Final Remarks 

This has been but a cursory survey of Paul's remarks on mar- 
riage and singleness, touching on his attitude toward remarriage after 
the death of a spouse. It is possible that Paul's personal preference for 
the single state extends even to someone who was once married. ''^ 
This subject arises repeatedly in the writings of the fathers and the 
councils in the early Christian centuries. Half of Tertullian's treatise 
To His Wife (Ad Uxorem; ca. a.d. 200-206) is devoted to expound- 

the question of what ministry widows may have had and comes to no definite conclu- 
sion outside of what Paul says about them in v 5. Ryrie also examines the role of 
widows in the church in the 2nd and 3rd centuries. See his index (p. 151) under 
"Widows." To it should be added Polycarp, 100. 

""We must remember that Paul, in 1 Timothy 5, is not discussing the remarriage of 
any young widow, but only of those in this group who have made a pledge to Christ 
not to marry again (so that they can serve their Lord to the fullest extent possible as 
Paul mentions in 1 Cor 7:286-35?). Paul's attitude toward the remarriage of any 
widow, young or old, ought to be determined by specific statements and principles 
gleaned from 1 Corinthians 7. 

"^Stauffer, TDNT 1:652. It appears that Paul's personal preference is that it is 
better for anyone whose partner has died to avoid a second marriage. But Paul's good 
sense and realism make him encourage second marriages where the strain (1 Cor 7:8-9) 
or dangers (1 Tim 5:14) involved in remaining single would be too great. 

"^Paul also requires the elder (1 Tim 3:2; Titus 1:6) and the deacon (1 Tim 3:12) to 
be "the husband of one wife," and the widow who is put on the official list must have 
been "the wife of one man" (1 Tim 5:9; cf. Luke 2:36-37; see also Jdt 16:22-23). In the 
first century this may well have excluded from these particular positions those who re- 
married after the death of their spouses (cf. Kelly, Pastoral Epistles, 75-76, 115-16; 
C. Spicq, Les Epitres Pastorales [Etudes Bibliques; 4th ed. rev.; 2 vols.; Paris, 1969], 
1:430-31; Stahhn, TDNT 9:442, 450-51, 457; B. Vawter, "Divorce and the New 
Testament," CBQ 39 [1977] 529, 537-38; and BAGD, "elq," 2b\ most of the older 
commentaries). Against this view and for the understanding that divorcees who have 
remarried are in view, see Oepke, TDA^r 1:362-63, n. 1 1, p. 788; J. D. M. Derrett, Lmw 
in the New Testament (London: Darton, Longman & Todd, 1970) 374-75; C. Brown, 
"dvfip," NIDNTT 2 (1976) 563-64; and Hanson, Pastoral Epistles, 77-78. The view 
presented by R. L. Saucy ("The Husband of One Wife,'" BSac 131 [1974] 229-40) 
could scarcely have been Paul's intention. 

heth: unmarried "for the sake of the kingdom" 69 

ing the various reasons why he urges his wife to remain a widow 
should he die before her. 

Before leaving Paul's statements on singleness and marriage it 
seems appropriate to mention the exegetical consensus that the 
Corinthians to whom Paul responds in chap. 7 are sexual ascetics 
who consider their practice mandatory for the Christian life. Whether 
an over-realized eschatological dualism (cf. 1 Cor 4:8; 2 Tim 2:18), or 
a gnostic dualism, or a combination of the two lies behind the 
Corinthian position is still being debated.'*^ At any rate, the Corinthian 
position seems to have led to two different sets of moral implications. 
On the one hand were the libertines, the licentious group that Paul 
corrects in 1 Cor 6:12-20 and whose maxim was "All things are 
lawful" (6:12; 10:23). On the other hand were the sexual ascetics who 
denied that sexual relations, and consequently marriage, was com- 
patible with the Christian profession at all. Twice in chap. 7 Paul 
must remind those who have been influenced by this group that to 
marry is not a sin (vv 28, 36). And though in principle he agrees that 
it is good for a man not to have relations with a woman {1:1 b), he 
radically qualifies the Corinthian premise (7:2; cf. 6:12-13) in the light 
of the practical difficulties the believer still faces in this world. Thus 
the believer "must take fully into account his situation in the world 
(vii. 5, 7, 13, 15, 21, 37), and take whatever course of action enables 
him to serve God with least distraction (vv. 5, 9, 15, 29-35), taking 
account of his special gifts from God (v. 7)."''* 

This means that in all probability 1 Corinthians 7 is primarily a 
rehabilitation of the marital union in the eyes of the Corinthian 
ascetics. If Chadwick overstates his case that Paul stands with the 
ascetics and deprecates marriage (because he dislikes fornication 
more!),"*^ at least Chadwick has hit upon the basic thrust of Paul's 
remarks in 1 Corinthians 7: 

Paul's aim is to minimize the gulf between himself and the Corinthians, 
and therefore says nothing directly to challenge their principles. He 
lays himself open to some misunderstanding by not doing so, and from 

Cf. D. R. Cartlidge, "1 Corinthians 7 as a Foundation for a Christian Sex 
Ethic," y^ 55 (1975) 220-34; A. C. Thiselton, "Reahzed Eschatology at Corinth," NTS 
24 (1978) 510-26; Fee, "1 Corinthians 7:1," 312-14; and the commentaries, of course. 

"^Thiselton, "Realized Eschatology," 519. 

"H. Chadwick ("'All Things to All Men,' (I Cor. ix.22)," NTS 1 [1954-55] 261- 
75) discusses Paul's teaching in 1 Corinthians 7 (pp. 263-70), which he thinks illus- 
trates Paul's apologetic technique in dealing with particular situations. Chadwick's 
estimate of Paul's view of marriage is flawed because he reads vv 1-7 incorrectly (cf. 
nn. 6, 21-22 above). Paul does not advise people to get married in order to avoid 
fornication in w 1-2; but in our view of vv 36-38 he does advise a young engaged man 
to marry his betrothed if he is not able to channel properly his sexual desire for her 


the second century onwards Christian writers (and others) have under- 
stood him to be deeply concerned with the superiority of the ascetic 
ideal and to be directly propagating it in I Cor. vii. When his words are 
set in their historical context and related to the specific situation, it is 



The early church fathers' exegesis and application of Scripture is 
not somehow more authoritative or more accurate than that which 
we find in modern literature. However, they should be given the 
careful attention deserved by any writer who seeks to speak to or for 
the church of his day. The earliest Christians did not see the NT texts 
that deal with singleness through the glasses worn by most Protes- 
tants today — glasses tinted with a post-Reformation overreaction to 
enforced clerical celibacy.^' If an earlier era of the church has derived 
more from these texts for their faith and practice than the texts 
actually teach, the Protestant era has not yet mined them for what 
they are worth. We often lack a knowledge of the practices and 
customs of the early churches (cf. 1 Cor 11 :2, 16)^^ as well as access to 
a living oral tradition. Papias, who wrote five books," states that he 
often questioned those who had followed the apostles, as well as 

before marriage (cf. RSV; Schrenk, TDTVr 3:60-61; and Chadwick, "'All Things,'" 

'"Chadwick, "'All Things,'" 270. 

''The early church fathers, of course, wore their glasses tinted with a different 
shade. Many factors contributed to a growing concern about asceticism in the ante- 
Nicene church which resulted in an over-estimation of celibacy, a depreciation of 
sexual relations within marriage, and the belief that marriage is only for the purpose of 
procreation and not the pleasure of the marriage partners (cf. Justin Martyr, First 
Apology 29.1; Athenagoras, Plea for the Christians 33; Clement of Alexandria, Stro- 
mata 3.6.46; 3.7.58; 3.1 1.71; 3.12.79). This last view was commonly held by the Stoics 
(cf. n. 286 by Le Saint in ACW 23:164 for the Stoic references). Sc\iaS {History, 2:386) 
makes the interesting observation that the ante-Nicene excesses of asceticism should 
not "blind us against the moral heroism of renouncing rights and enjoyments innocent 
in themselves, but so generally abused and poisoned [in society], that total abstinence 
seemed to most of the early fathers the only radical and effective cure. So in our days 
some of the best of men regard total abstinence rather than temperance, the remedy of 
the fearful evils of intemperance." 

"For example, see Justin's description of early Christian worship in his First 
Apology 65-67 or the instructions in the Didache. 

"Aoyiwv KopittKcov e^riyfiascoc; (Eusebius, Eccl. Hist. 3.39.1). For a defense of the 
translation "Gospels" here see: G. Salmon, "Papias," A Dictionary of Christian Biog- 
raphy, Literature, Sects and Doctrines (ed. W. Smith and H. Wace; 4 vols.; 1877), 
4:187; and G. Kittel, "Xoyiov," TDNT^ (1967) 139-41. 

heth: unmarried "for the sake of the kingdom" 71 

Aristion (another disciple of the Lord; cf. Luke 10:1) and the Apostle 
John/'' The fact that Papias was a contemporary of the apostle John, 
and that the first three writers we will look at were contemporaries of 
Papias, makes our study all the more interesting. Yet the proximity of 
the earliest Christian writings to the time of the NT — though we can 
never accord them the authority of the NT — makes reading them 
more than a curiosity. 

Modern commentators almost unanimously have understood 
some kind of relationship between Jesus' saying about eunuchs in 
Matt 19:12 and Paul's statement in 1 Cor 7:7 that continency in 
singleness was given to him (and others) as a gift (xapiafxa) from 
God." We want to examine how these two texts, and any pertinent 
material in their wider contexts, began to influence the lives of early 
Christians, for better or for worse, and what this can teach us about 
how these texts should be interpreted and applied today. 

Two Apostolic Fathers^^ 

Clement of Rome 

The first text we will look at is found in Clement's letter to the 
Corinthians. Clement is a good beginning point because his is the 
earliest extant Christian writing that is not part of the NT, the date of 
which is quite certain (ca. a.d. 96). The letter was well known and 
highly regarded in the early church. It was even being read along with 
the Scriptures in the church's worship service at Corinth in a.d. 170." 
The letter is written in the name of the church in Rome in order to 
deal with a factional dispute in Corinth wherein some of the younger 
members of the church had ousted certain presbyters from the minis- 
try. Clement uses this situation as an opportunity to impart not a 
little exhortation to pursue Christian virtues. 

Eusebius, Eccl. Hist. 3.39.3-4. For this understanding of the passage, as opposed 
to the one that says Papias is twice removed from those closest to the Lord, see: C. S. 
Petrie, "The Authorship of 'The Gospel according to Matthew': A Reconsideration of 
the External Evidence," NTS 14 (1967-68) 15-33; and R. H. Gundry, Matthew: A 
Commentary on His Literary and Theological Art (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1982) 

"Cf. A. H. McNeile, The Gospel according to St. Matthew (London: Macmillan, 
1915) 275; Stauffer, TDNT, 1:652; H. B. Green, The Gospel according to Matthew 
(NCB; Oxford: University Press, 1975) 169; N. J. Opperwall, "Celibacy," ISBE: Fully 
Revised (ed. G. W. Bromiley), 1:627; O. G. Oliver, Jr., "Celibacy," Evangelical Dic- 
tionary of Theology (ed. W. A. Elwell; Grand Rapids: Baker, 1984) 203. 

^*The Greek text used for the Apostolic Fathers is the one by K. Bihlmeyer, Die 
Apostolischen Voter (SAQ; Zweite Reihe; Erstes Heft; Erster Teil; Tubingen: J. C. B. 
Mohr, 1970). 

"Eusebius, Eccl. Hist., 4.23.11. 


The reference most pertinent to the issue of singleness is found in 
/ Clement 37-38, and it communicates the same point that Paul does 
in 1 Corinthians 12. Clement exhorts the Corinthians to let their 
whole body be preserved in Christ Jesus, and tells them that each one 
should be subject to his neighbor (cf. Eph 5:21) according to the 
special gift that God has bestowed upon him (KaGox; exeGri sv t© 
Xaplojaaxi auxoC) (38:1).^^ The strong must take care of the weak, 
and the weak should respect the strong. The rich man should help the 
poor, and the poor man should thank God that He has given him 
someone to meet his needs. The wise man should show his wisdom 
not in words but in deeds, and the humble should not draw attention 
to his own good deeds but should let others mention them. Lastly, 
Clement says that "He who is continent must not put on airs. He 
must recognize that his self-control is a gift from another. "^^ Or, to 
translate this last sentence in I Clem. 38:2 more literally: "Let not the 
one who is pure in the flesh (6 ctyvoc; sv if) oapKi) grow proud, since 
he knows (yivwcKcov = causal ptcp.) that another (i.e., God), is the 
One who grants continence to him (oxi sxepog saxiv 6 snixopriycov 
auxw xfiv eyKpdxeiav)." 

To whom is Clement referring when he includes this exhortation 
to those who are "pure in the flesh"? It initially appears that nothing 
clear is said about the sphere in which these individuals exercise "self- 
control" (Latin, continentia). Paul uses the verbal form of this word 
(eyKpaxeuojiai) in 1 Cor 9:25 where he talks about the athlete who 
"exercises self-control" to achieve his goals. Also, in addition to 
speaking to Felix and Drusilla about faith in Christ Jesus, Paul 
discussed righteousness, self-control (syKpax£ia(;), and the judgment 
to come — topics that caused Felix's interest in Christianity to wane 
(Acts 24:25). Self-control, as Clement of Alexandria later says, is 
something that applies to other matters besides sexual abstinence. ^° 

What is clear is that Clement is aware of the danger that the one 
who possesses this self-control may be tempted to think that he 
stands on a level above the average Christian. Clement has to remind 
these Christians that what they are able to do, they are able to do by 
God's grace. ^' 

D. A. Hagner {The Use of the Old and New Testaments in Clement of Rome 
[NovTSup 34; Leiden: Brill, 1973] 197-98, 245) argues that this phrase may be derived 
from 1 Pet 4:10; 1 Cor 7:7; or Rom 12:6 (cf. 1 Cor 12:4). 

^'Trans. by C. C. Richardson (LCC 1:61). 

^"Clement of Alexandria, Stromata 3.1.4. 

*'Cf. Hagner, Old and NT in Clement of Rome, 209, 212. Clement says elsewhere 
that "continence in holiness" (eyKpaxeia sv ayiao|a(p) is one of the gifts (la 5copa) of 
God (35:1-2; cf. 30:3; 64:1). 

heth: unmarried "for the sake of the kingdom" 73 

The question remains: who are the ones who are "pure in the 
flesh"? Clement, by this phrase, does seem to indicate that the sphere 
in which this "self-control" or "continency" is exercised is "in the 
flesh." But in what sense is the flesh kept pure? Two passages come to 
mind. The first is Rev 14:4, which suggests the antithesis of "pure in 
the flesh," namely "defiled" in the flesh. In this passage the 144,000 
who are standing with the lamb on Mount Zion are described as "the 
ones who have not been defiled (|xo?^uv(jo) with women." The explana- 
tion given for this is "for they are virgins (TiapOevoi, masc.)." Possibly 
the men described here are men who have never committed immoral- 
ity, but is it likely that none of the 144,000 were married? If any were 
married, the word "defile" could scarcely have been used to describe 
the relations that godly men have with their wives. There are other 
interpretive options for this verse that we cannot discuss here,^^ so it 
seems best to leave Rev 14:4 out of our consideration of 1 Clem. 38:2. 

The other passage that comes to mind is 1 Cor 6:12-20. Here 
Paul teaches that the Christian's body is a member of Christ, and that 
he must glorify God in his body. Christians who continue to take part 
in immoral pagan sexual practices not only defile themselves (v 18), 
but they sin against Christ because they are members of his "body." It 
is true that the word Paul emphasizes in 1 Cor 6:12-20 is "body" 
(CTM|xa) and not "flesh" (odp^), as in Clement, but we must remember 
V 16: "Or do you not know that the one who joins himself to a harlot 
is one body (a(0|j.a) with her? For he says, 'The two shall become one 
flesh (adpKtt).'"^^ Thus the one who is "pure in the flesh" appears to 
denote someone who exercises self-control in sexual matters.^'* 

"For an overview of the various options, see J. M. Ford, Revelation (AB; Garden 
City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1975) 234-35, 241-46; R. M. Mounce, The Book of Revelation 
(NICNT; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1977) 269-70. Ford once believed that the mascu- 
line TiapGevoi in Rev 14:4 "may refer to men who have only been married once" ("The 
Meaning of 'Virgin'," NTS 12 [1965-66] 294). IlapBevoc; should be understood figura- 
tively in Rev 14:4 (cf. Delling, TDNT, 5:836; and F. Hauck, "noXwco," TDNT4 [1967] 
736-37) of those who "have kept themselves pure from all defiling relationships with 
the pagan world system. They have resisted the seductions of the great harlot Rome 
with whom the kings of the earth have committed fornication (17:2)" (Mounce, 270). 
Ign. Smyrn. 13:1 (see n. 33 above) employs napQevoq figuratively with reference to 
one's sexual self-control. 

"Cf. E. Schweizer, "odp^," TDNT 7 (1971) 125-26; and R. H. Gundry, Soma in 
Biblical Theology with an Emphasis on Pauline Anthropology (SNTSMS 29; Cam- 
bridge: University Press, 1976) 62-64. 

'''Schweizer {TDNT, 7:147) says there is no doubt that sexual continence is in view 
in 1 Clem. 38:2. We find it most probable that Clement is exhorting those who are 
continent in singleness and not those who are continent in marriage (cf. Titus 2:4-5; 
1 Pet3:l-2;Pol. i'/j//. 4:2). 


Does Clement have a passage of Scripture in mind when he 
exhorts those who are sexually continent not to take pride in their 
God-given ability? There are two possibilities. First, Gal 5:23 lists 
syKpotTEia as one of the fruits of the Spirit. ^^ The "Western" text 
inserts otyveia ("purity, chastity") after syKpdxeia, which may suggest 
the related word aYv6(; ("pure") that appears only a few words before 
syKpdxeia in 1 Clem. 38:2 (cf. 64:1). But the textual evidence for this 
reading is weak. 

The other passage that Clement may have in mind is 1 Cor 7:7: 
"Yet I wish that all men were even as I myself am. However, each 
man has his own gift from God, one in this manner, and another in 
that." Remember that Clement is writing to the church in Corinth 
which most likely would have preserved copies of Paul's letters to 
them. Clement even names Paul as the author of the First Epistle to 
the Corinthians and tells his readers to refer to this letter that the 
Corinthian church had received only forty years earlier.^^ Further- 
more, Clement has just used imagery from 1 Corinthians 12 in 
/ Clement 37, and he begins chap. 38 by exhorting his readers to be 
subject to their fellow-Christians according to the "gift" (xapiajia) 
given to each individual. It is important to note that 1 Cor 7:7 is the 
only passage in the NT that teaches that the ability to live without 
fulfilling sexual needs is a "gift" from God.^^ In light of the fact that 
an antonym of eyKpdxsia, namely dKpaaiav ("lack of self-control"), 
appears in 1 Cor 7:5, and that syKpaxsuoixai appears in 1 Cor 7:9, the 
background for Clement's final exhortation in 1 Clem. 38:2 must be 
1 Cor 7:7. Continency in singleness is a beneficial gift bestowed by 
God and should not be flaunted as a sign of spiritual superiority. 

Ignatius of Antioch^* 

If the preceding analysis of 1 Clem. 38:2 appears to be somewhat 
tenuous, the next passage in Ignatius's letter to Polycarp adds some 

R. M. Grant {The Apostolic Fathers: A New Translation and Commentary [ed. 
R. M. Grant; New York: Thomas Nelson, 1965] 2:66) thinks Gal 5:23 is the back- 
ground here. Hagner {Old and NT in Clement of Rome, 221-22), I think wisely, does 
not list this possibility. 

"Cf. Hagner, Old and NT in Clement of Rome, 195-96, 209. 

"Cf. H. Conzelmann, "xdpiona," TDNT9 (1974) 404. 

*■* According to Eusebius {Eccl. Hist. 3.22; 3.36.1-15 [the second reference gives 
the account of Ignatius's journey to Rome as well as Irenaeus's and Polycarp 's references 
to Ignatius's martyrdom]), Ignatius was the second bishop of Syrian Antioch. He wrote 
seven letters in two stages on his journey through Asia Minor as he was being 
conducted to Rome as a prisoner. There he would fight and die among the wild beasts 
in the Coliseum. Nearly all agree that Ignatius was martyred in the latter half of 
Trajan's reign (a.d. 98-117). 

heth: unmarried "for the sake of the kingdom" 75 

details that make it most likely that the two texts are referring to the 
same thing: continence in singleness. The reference in Ignatius not 
only appears to be an expansion of the one just examined in 
1 Clement, but it may indicate a knowledge of both 1 Cor 7:7 and 
Matt 19:12. We know that Ignatius reveals a knowledge of several of 
Paul's letters and that he is probably aware of the contents of 
I Clement, but Ignatius is clearly most familiar with 1 Corinthians.^^ 
We should also remember that Ignatius is the first writer to quote 
from Matthew's Gospel.^" Finally, a link between Ignatius and Mat- 
thew and between Matthew and Paul is further suggested by the fact 
that Paul was a missionary delegate from the church of Antioch (Acts 
13:1-3; cf. 11:19-30). Since many believe that Syrian Antioch is the 
most likely destination for Matthew's Gospel/' "we may suppose that 
this was primarily the tradition of the 'words of the Lord' which he 
[Paul] took with him, and it would explain the otherwise rather 
unexpected affinity in doctrine and in discipline between Paul and 
Matthew. "^^ 

Ignatius teaches that Christian wives are to love the Lord and to 
be content with their husbands in flesh and in spirit and that Chris- 
tian husbands are to love their wives as the Lord loves the church. He 

If anyone is able to remain continent (ev ayvsig jasvsiv) to the honor of 
the flesh of the Lord, let him do so without boasting (ev ctKauxriaig 
lasveTco). If he boasts he is lost {an&tkzxo); and if he is more highly 
esteemed than the bishop /it is made known to anyone but the bishop 
(Ktti sctv yvwoGfi nktov I Tikf\v xoC STCiaKOKOu), he has been corrupted 
(scpBapxai) [Ign. Pol. 5:2]. 

"Xf. Richardson, LCC 1:78. Both Grant {Apostolic Fathers, 2:5) and B. H. 
Streeter {The Four Gospels: A Study of Origins [London: Macmillan, 1936] 490, n. 2) 
state that Ignatius had read 1 Clement. 

'°Streeter {Four Gospels, 504-7) discusses about fifteen passages in Ignatius's 
letters that look like reminiscences of Matthew and the significance of Ignatius's use of 
the words "the Gospel" as if this were a book. Streeter feels that by the Gospel Ignatius 
means Matthew. 

"ibid., 16, 500-528. For a different view (Caesarea), see B. T. Viviano, "Where 
Was the Gospel According to St. Matthew Written?" CBQA\ (1979) 533-46. 

"Robinson, Redating, 97. Consider also that Matthew is the Gospel common to 
the two possible synoptic sources closest to Paul's allusions to the sayings of Jesus in 
1 Cor 7:10-11 (Mark 10:11-12 or Matt 19:9) and 1 Cor 9:14 (Matt 10:10//Luke 10:7). 
Paul also quotes a portion of Gen 2:24 (cf. Matt 19:5//Mark 10:8) in 1 Cor 6:16 just 
before his discussion of Jesus' divorce saying. This, along with the often cited idea 
parallel between 1 Cor 7:7 and Matt 19:11-12, and Paul's extended discussion of the 
values of singleness in 1 Cor 7:25-38, suggests that Paul may have been aware of the 
tradition behind the whole of Matt 19:3-12. The eunuch-saying, of course, is pecuhar 
to Matthew's Gospel. 


The last sentence reflects two different readings of Ignatius's text that 
are made possible by the two potential subjects of yvcocGri (the 
person who boasts about his chastity, or the vow of chastity itself) 
and whether the correct reading is nXeov or nXr]v.^^ The translation, 
"if he is more highly esteemed than the bishop," would suggest that a 
comparison is being made in which a married bishop is viewed 
unfavorably. ^"^ On this understanding those who are practicing a life 
of chastity think of themselves as superior to the bishop who is 
presumably a married man. Sloyan, however, believes this interpreta- 
tion of Ignatius stems from a faulty translation. He claims that the 
passive of yivcboKco "is never used to signify 'to be esteemed' but 
always 'to be made known.' "^^ The alternative translation is defended 
by Lightfoot: "if it [the continent individual's purpose or vow of 
chastity] be known beyond the bishop, he has been corrupted." In the 
same way that Ignatius says persons intending to marry should do so 
with the bishop's approval (immediately following our text), so single 
persons who are able to or desire to remain continent in singleness 
should take the bishop into their counsels, but no one else (cf. Ign. 
Magn. 7:1).'' 

Where do these single persons fit into Ignatius's understanding of 
the Christian life? The answer to this question is found in Ignatius's 
definition of discipleship. It is bound up with complete conformity to 
the life of Jesus.'' For Ignatius the chief mode of imitating Christ is 
through suffering. This is why he is so anxious to get to the Roman 
Coliseum to meet his death. One of the other means of imitating 
Christ is "chastity" in honor of the Lord's flesh. 

Ignatius's wording in Ign. Pol. 5:2 suggests that the challenge to 
a life of chastity can only be accepted by some. "If anyone is able" 

"n>.eov means "more, in greater measure, to a greater degree," and the ace. is 
used here as an adverb with a gen. of comparison (BAGD, s.v. ''noXvq," U2c). nXr\v is 
an adverb used as a conjunction (BAGD, s.v.) meaning "only, nevertheless, however, 
but" (cf. BDF §449), and is found in Bihlmeyer's (Die Apostolischen Voter, 112) 

'"So Kleist's trans, in ACW 1:98; Richardson's trans, in LCC 1:119 (but he makes 
"his chastity" the subject of ecpQapiai); and C. Cochini, Origines apostoliques du 
celibat sacerdotal (Paris, 1981) 164-65. 

"G. Sloyan, "Biblical and Patristic Motives for CeUbacy of Church Ministers," 
Concilium 8:8 (1972) 23. Sloyan, however, cites no lexical work of his own to substan- 
tiate his statement. He relies on the judgment of "J. B. Lightfoot and A. D'Ales as cited 
in Roger Gryson, Les origines du celibat ecclesiastique (Gembloux, 1968), pp. xi and 
228" (n. 20). 

'^Lightfoot {Apostolic Fathers, II, 2:349) believes that this is the correct interpreta- 
tion whether one adopts the Tzkiov (his preference) or the Kkf[v reading. Cochini 
{Origines, 165), however, raises some interesting points against this interpretation of 
Ign. Pol. 5:2. 

"Cf. Aune, Cultic Setting of Realized Eschatology, 150-51. 

heth: unmarried "for the sake of the kingdom" 77 

(£1 Tic; Suvaxai) is similar in wording to Jesus' closing challenge in 
Matt 19:12: "He who is able (6 6uvd|X8vo;) to accept this let him 
accept it." In fact, in one of Ignatius's other letters he omits the 
portion of Matt \9:l2d that he probably alludes to here and quotes 
the phrase "Let him accept it who can" (6 x^pwv xcdpeixo). In his 
letter to the Smyrnaeans (6:1) Ignatius makes the statement that 
judgment will fall upon the glory of the angels and on rulers visible 
and invisible if they do not believe on the blood of Christ. Then he 
says: "The one who accepts (this) let him accept (it)." Ignatius applies 
this phrase from Matt I9:l2d to a difficult saying or teaching that he 
does not want his readers to stumble over.^* He even prefaces this 
teaching with "Let no one be misled." Jesus had used this "let him 
accept it" challenge after he made the declaration that some would 
forego marital life and sexual relations because of the primacy of 
God's kingdom. Though in Ign. Smyrn. 6:1 Ignatius employs part of 
Matt l9A2d in a context foreign to the one in Matthew's Gospel, it 
seems to function in exactly the same way it does in its original 
context in Matt 19:10-12: it is an exhortation to fruitful reception of 
a difficult teaching.^^ 

Yet to be discussed is the meaning of the phrase "to the honor of 
the flesh of the Lord." This may be a reference to the literal earthly 
life of Jesus in that he himself was a "eunuch for the sake of the 
kingdom" par excellence. The believer who has been gifted to live a 
single life of service in devotion to his Lord and who does so without 
boasting is an imitator of Christ to his honor. This phrase may also 
be understood as a figurative reference (cf. our discussion of 1 Cor 
6:12-20 and 1 Clem. 38:2). Lawson writes: 

We observe that the Christian's own body is a part of the Body of 
Christ, so that a discipline which exalts it exalts "the flesh of the Lord." 
This conveys to us what a vivid and realistic sense the early Christians 
felt that they were "members incorporate in the mystical body of thy 

As in Clement's letter, Ign. Pol. 5:2 addresses the temptation of 
the one who has this gift to think more highly of himself than he 

'^Tertullian {De Fuga in Persecutione 14.2 [ANF 4:125; FC 40:306]) uses Matt 
\9:l2d the same way in still another context. 

"W. Bauer ("Matth. 19,12 und die alten Christen," in Neutestamentliche Studien. 
Georg Heinrici zu seinem 70. Geburtstag [UNT 6; Leipzig: J. C. Hinrichs'sche, 1914] 
235-44) feels that Matt 19:12 does not occur in the Apostolic Fathers. He mentions the 
Pol. Smyrn. 6:1 passage (p. 236) but says that because it is out of context it is not 
necessary to discuss it in his essay. This is to overlook some key aspects of Ignatius's 
understanding of Matt 19:12. Bauer does not discuss Ign. Pol. 5:2. 

^''j. Lawson, A Theological and Historical Introduction to the Apostolic Fathers 
(New York: Macmillan, 1961) 144. 


ought to think. When Ignatius says the Christian who boasts about 
his decision to remain chaste "has been corrupted," he is not neces- 
sarily threatening the believer with eternal damnation.*' A passage 
from Methodius's Symposium aids in understanding Ignatius at this 

Again, even though a person may persevere in resisting the desires 
of the senses, if he should take excessive pride in this very ability to 
control the impulses of the flesh, considering them all as utterly insig- 
nificant, he does not honor chastity. Rather does he dishonor it by his 
arrogance and pride, purifying the outside of the dish [cf. Matt 23:25] 
and the platter, that is, the flesh, the body, while doing harm to his 
heart by his domineering conceit. ^^ 

In other words, Ignatius warns the celibate to beware of the sin of 
pride. Though there may be some practical advantages in remaining 
single for the sake of being more fully devoted to the kingdom of 
God, one cannot speak of any moral superiority in remaining single, 
"for it is better to be humble without being celibate than to be 
celibate without being humble."*^ 

Justin Martyr and Athenagoras*"* 

The next two passages are neither exhortations to those with the 
gift of sexual self-control nor interpretations of the primary single- 
ness texts under consideration. Rather they are included as evidence 
of the fact that at an early date Christian men and women were 
renouncing marital life because of the various benefits they perceived 
in a life of singleness.*^ Both Justin Martyr and Athenagoras appeal 
to the existence of men and women in the Christian community who 

BAGD (s.v. "(pQsipo)," 2c) lists the meaning of cpGeipco in Ign. Pol. 5:2 as 
""destroy in the sense 'punish w. eternal destruction.'" As BAGD notes, the parallel 
with the preceding dn;6X.>tU|ii might suggest this. But the other references BAGD lists 
under this meaning (2 Pet 2:12; Jude 10; 1 Cor 3:17/? [if the teacher there is an 
unbeliever]) all have unbelievers as the object of eternal destruction. 

^^Methodius of Olympus, Symposium 11 (trans. H. Musurillo; ACW 27:149-50). 

^^Thurian, Marriage and Celibacy, 81. 

^''The Greek texts used for Justin, Athenagoras and Clement of Alexandria are 
those reprinted in the series BIBAIO0HKH EAAHNQN nATEPQN KAI EKKAH- 
IIAITIKQN lYrrPAOQN (Athens). For Athenagoras see also Athenagoras (Oxford 
Early Christian Texts; ed. and trans. Wm. R. Schoedel; Oxford: Clarendon, 1972). 

*'We should not overlook the fact that already in NT times Paul saw certain 
advantages to the unmarried state (1 Cor 7:7, 29-35, 39-40), and if our interpretation 
of 1 Tim 5:12 is correct, certain women in NT times were dedicating their lives (free 
from matrimonial ties) exclusively to Christ. For the possible sociological advantages 
that women might have found by turning to celibacy, see J. M. Bassler, "The Widows' 
Tale: A Fresh Look at 1 Tim 5:3-16," 75L 103 (1984) 23-41. 

heth: unmarried "for the sake of the kingdom" 79 

had remained continent in singleness in order to prove to pagans 
what a high standard of morality Christians actually held. 

In Justin's First Apology (ca. a.d. 150) he begins with an appeal 
to justice and goes on to refute anti-Christian slanders (3-12). He 
states and briefly refutes three of the principal charges brought against 
Christians: atheism, immorality and disloyalty. He tries to show his 
readers (chap. 12) that if men knew that they were going into either 
eternal punishment or eternal salvation, depending on the character 
of their actions, then no one would choose vice, but would restrain 
himself with virtue that he might avoid punishments and receive the 
good things that come from God. Neither thoughts nor actions can be 
hidden from God. Justin points out the diff'erence between the laws 
made by men and truth, namely The Word Himself, Jesus. And 
speaking of Jesus he says, "we know of no ruler more royal or more 
just than he. . . . So the sensible man will not choose whatever the 
Word forbids to be chosen."*^ At the end of chap. 12 Justin says that 
already he has made his point clear that Christians only seek what is 
just and true, but he will go on to persuade the lover of truth. 

In chap. 13 Justin states that Christians are not godless but 
honor Jesus in accordance with reason. He asks his readers to give 
their attention to the mystery of worshiping a crucified man. He then 
(chap. 14) warns them ahead of time that the demons will try to 
distort what he says and prevent them from grasping the truth. He 
begins to give some examples of how the demons "get a hold of all 
who do not struggle to their utmost for their own salvation — as we 
do who, after being persuaded by the Word, renounced them [i.e., the 
demons] and now follow the only begotten God through his Son." 
First on Justin's list contrasting past sin with present righteousness is 
this: "Those who once rejoiced in fornication (nopvciaK;) now delight 
in continence (acocppoouvri) alone" (14.2). Other examples follow, 
contrasting what Christians used to be with what they now are. 

Then Justin makes a transition to chap. 15 by saying that before 
he makes his defense, that is, gives his demonstration, he thinks it 
would be fitting to recall some of the teachings of Christ Himself. By 
doing this, he says, the contrasts he has just listed will not seem to be 
sophistry. Here chap. 15 begins and the first catena of Jesus' teach- 
ings is subsumed under the subject of "continence" (acocppoauvri), or 
"self-discipline." Justin writes: 

About continence he said this: "Whoever looks on a woman to 
lust after her has already committed adultery in his heart before God" 
[Matt 5:28]. And: "If your right eye offends you, cut it out; it is better 

'7 Apol. 12.7-8 (trans. E. R. Hardy; LCC 1:248). 


for you to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven with one eye than with 
two to be sent into eternal fire" [Mark 9:47 (Matt 5:29)]. And: "Who- 
ever marries a woman who has been put away from another man 
commits adultery" [Matt 5:32 (Luke 16:18)]. And: "There are some 
who were made eunuchs by men, and some who were born eunuchs, 
and some who have made themselves eunuchs for the Kingdom of 
Heaven's sake; only not all [are able to] receive this" [Matt 19:11-12]." 
And so those who make second marriages according to human law 
are sinners in the sight of our Teacher,^* and those who look on a 
woman to lust after her. For he condemns not only the man who 
commits adultery, but the man who desires to commit adultery, since 
not only our actions but our thoughts are manifest to God. Many men 
and women now in their sixties and seventies who have been disciples 
of Christ from childhood have preserved their purity (d(pr|opoi 5ia- 
jXEvouai); and I am proud that I could point to such people in every 

Justin says that these particular teachings of Jesus can be grouped 
under a common theme: aco(ppoouvr|. In popular usage this word had 
already acquired a meaning restricted to sexual moderation, and this 
meaning of "chastity" and a virtuous life in the moral sphere pre- 
vailed in the early church. '° Furthermore, Justin makes it clear that 
this self-control has to do with sexual desire in both thought and 
action. From the way that Justin connects Jesus' teachings and com- 
ments on them, his last remark about those who have preserved their 
purity might possibly include not only those who have not committed 
adultery in thought and in action (especially by remarriage after 
divorce, something permitted by the secular law but prohibited by 
Jesus), but also those who have made themselves "eunuchs" for the 
kingdom of heaven's sake. On the other hand, Justin's last comment 
may specifically refer to Christian men and women devoted to life- 
long singleness. Elsewhere Justin says "we do not marry except in 
order to bring up children, or else, renouncing marriage, we live in 
perfect continence (t8X,80v 8V8KpaT£u6)i89a)."^' Thus Justin does not 

A. J. Bellinzoni {The Sayings of Jesus in the Writings of Justin Martyr [NovTSup 
17; Leiden: Brill, 1967] 57-61, 96-97) feels Justin's source for the four passages he cites 
here (15.1-4) seems to be a carefully composed gospel harmony of elements from 
Matthew, Mark and Luke. 

**We cannot discuss here Justin's teaching on divorce and remarriage, for which 
see H. Crouzel, L'eglise primitive face au divorce du premier au cinquieme siecle (Paris: 
Beauchesne, 1971) 53-56. 

^'l Apol. 15.1-6 (LCC1:250). 

'°Cf. U. Luck, "acocppoowTi," TDNT7 (1971) 1100, 1103. This is the same word 
that Justin had previously used to describe what Christians now pursue instead of 
"fornications" (7 Apol. 14.2). 

"//lj[?o/. 29.1(LCC1:260). 

heth: unmarried "for the sake of the kingdom" 81 

appear to understand Matt 19:12 in the literal sense of physical 
castration.^^ Those who have made themselves "eunuchs" for the 
kingdom of heaven's sake are those devoted followers of Christ who 
never married. Athenagoras's testimony a quarter of a century later 
will make this identification even more clear. 

Two points are worthy of mention with respect to the above 
passage from Justin's First Apology. First, by a.d. 150 Justin is able 
to point to many Christians who have lived a life of continence as 
disciples of Christ. The fact that many of them were over sixty 
or seventy years old pushes the existence of this "because-of-the- 
kingdom" lifestyle back into the first century, even earlier than the 
texts we examined from Clement of Rome and Ignatius of Antioch. 

The second item of note is the manner in which Justin maintains 
Matthew's association of Jesus' hard saying on divorce and remarriage 
with the saying about eunuchs that follows. Clement of Alexandria 
does the same thing in Book 3 of his Stromata, but he comments 
quite specifically on how these two passages fit together (see below). 

Athenagoras answers three current charges brought against Chris- 
tianity in his Plea for the Christians (ca. a.d. 177): atheism, incest, 
and cannibalism. Chaps. 3-30 are devoted to answering the first 
charge and chaps. 31-36 take up the remaining two. The passage on 
singleness is found in the middle of Athenagoras's reply to the charge 
of incest or promiscuity (chaps. 32-34). Athenagoras, like Justin, 
appeals to the high moral standards of Christians to refute the charges 
of immorality. 

You would, indeed, find many among us, both men and women, 
who have grown to old age unmarried (dydp,ou(;), in the hope of being 
closer to God. If, then, to remain virgins and eunuchs (to 8v TtapGsvict 
Ktti Ev suvouxia jieivai) brings us closer to God, while to indulge in 
wrong thoughts and passions drives us from him, we have all the more 
reason to avoid those acts, the very thought of which we flee from.'^ 

'^Yet in 1 Apol. l^.l-^i Justin does record the case of a Christian who petitioned 
the Prefect in Alexandria, asking that a physician be allowed to make him a eunuch. 
When the request was denied "the young man remained single (eq)' eauToO \xz{vo.q), 
satisfied with [the approval of] his own conscience and that of his fellow believers." 
Eusebius {Eccl. Hist. 6.8.1-6) tells the story of Origen's over-literal application of Matt 
19:12r in his youth and his later attempt to describe to the bishops of the world the 
monstrous nature of the act he had wrongly carried out. On Origen's literal hermeneu- 
tic in his youth see Bauer, "Matth. 19,12," 238. In his later years Origen {Matt. 15. 4) 
defended the figurative interpretation of all three classes of eunuchs in Matt 19:12. 

^^ Plea for the Christians 33.26-3; trans. C. C. Richardson (LCC 1:337). A good 
study of Athenagoras's life and writings is L. W. Barnard, Athenagoras: A Study in 
Second Century Christian Apologetic (Theologie historique 18; Paris: Beauchesne, 


If this is what Christians really practice, Athenagoras goes on to say, 
then those who accuse Christians resemble the proverb, "The harlot 
reproves the chaste (xfiv acbcppova)." Christians are being castigated 
for the very things that their accusers are involved in. Those outside 
the church are the ones who have set up a market for fornication! 
"Adulterers and corrupters of boys, they insult eunuchs (xoijg su- 
vouxoD?) and those once married (|^ovoyd|ioo(;)."^'* 

Athenagoras uses the word "eunuch" essentially as a synonym 
for "unmarried" and "virgin." The latter two terms occur in Paul's 
discussion of the value of remaining single in 1 Cor 7:25-38, and 
"eunuch" has almost certainly been used under the influence of Jesus' 
saying in Matt 19:12. In fact, celibacy, or the notion of remaining 
unmarried for the sake of the kingdom, was commonly rendered by 
the term suvouxiot from the time of Athenagoras onwards. ^^ That 
Jesus' saying recorded in Matt 19:12 had a strong influence on the 
lives of Christians in the early church can hardly be denied. Nor can 
it be denied that Jesus' eunuch-saying was primarily understood in a 
figurative sense of those who were able to remain continent in single- 
ness. Finally, the writer examined below extends the application of 
the "eunuch" figure beyond the reference to singles who exercise self- 
control over their sexual life. 

Clement of Alexandria 

In Book 3 of the Stromata Clement of Alexandria is walking the 
fence as he refutes the teaching of the libertines on the one hand while 
he responds, on the other hand, to ascetics like Tatian and Marcion 
who forbade marriage altogether. ^^ Matt 19:12 was one of the proof 
texts employed by the Gnostic heretics in support of their deprecia- 
tion of marriage. These heretics argued that marriage was fornication 
and taught that it was introduced by the devil. Furthermore, they 
claimed to be imitating the Lord in their practice in that he never 

''Plea for the Christians 34 (LCC 1:338). 

*'This is true throughout Book 3 of Clement of Alexandria's Stromata (cf. Ford, 
"St Paul, the Philogamist," 326-27 and n. 5). Eusebius {Eccl. Hist. 5.24.5) calls Melito, 
bishop of Sardis, "Melito the eunuch (tov euvoij/ov), who lived entirely in the Holy 

'^In Stromata 3.5.40-44 Clement is replying to the libertines; then in 3.6.45-3.7.60 
he replies to the ascetics; in 3.8.61-3.10.70 he again returns to the libertines. The last 
line in 3.10.70 seems to sum up both extremes: "Accordingly, those who from hatred 
do not marry or from desire use the flesh as if it were not a matter of right and 
wrong, are not in the number of the saved with whom the Lord is present" (trans. 
H. Chadwick; LCC 2:72). 

'^Clement has a threefold response to this argument in Stromata 3.6.49. The 
reasons the Lord did not marry are as follows: "In the first place he had his own bride, 

heth: unmarried "for the sake of the kingdom" 83 

What is most interesting is Clement's response to such an inter- 
pretation of Matt 19:11-12. He says in Stromata 3.6.50: 

Concerning the words, "Not all can receive this saying. There are 
some eunuchs who were born so, and some who were made eunuchs by 
men, and some who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the 
kingdom of heaven; let him receive it who can receive it," they do not 
realize the context. After his word about divorce some asked him 
whether, if that is the position in relation to women, it is better not to 
marry; and it was then that the Lord said: "Not all can receive this 
saying, but those to whom it is granted." What the questioners wanted 
to know was whether, when a man's wife has been condemned for 
fornication, it is allowable for him to marry another.^* 

Though some have argued that Clement is here, once again, citing 
this text in the customary way — that is, by making v 1 1 a response to 
the disciples' "It is better not to marry" in v 10^' — we must admit that 
Clement recognizes some kind of relationship between the eunuchs of 
V 12 and those disciples who object to Jesus' teaching that they may 
not remarry after divorcing their wives for fornication. In what way 
are the eunuchs in v 12 like those men in v 9 who are now in a state 
of singleness through the divorce of their wives for fornication? 

Arriving at a correct analysis of Clement's exegesis of Matt 
19:11-12 involves discovering what Clement says about "eunuchs" 
elsewhere in his writings. In Paedogogus 3.26 Clement speaks out 
against men and women who cultivate artificial beauty. Then he notes 
that there are scores of eunuchs who, because they are incapable of 
sexual pleasure, can minister to those who want to have some love 
affair and not raise suspicion. He then says: "The true eunuch, how- 
ever, is not he who is unable, but he who is unwilling to gratify his 

M 100 


In Stromata 3.1.1 Clement merely notes how the followers of 
Basilides interpret Matt 19:11-12 (and it is to this interpretation that 
Clement specifically responds in the above quote). The key point of 
the interpretation by the followers of Basilides is that the eunuchs 

the Church; and in the next place he was no ordinary man that he should also be in 
need of some helpmeet after the flesh. Nor was it necessary for him to beget children 
since he abides eternally and was born the only Son of God" (LCC 2:63). Then 
Clement cites Matt 19:6; Luke 18:8; Matt 24:19; and Acts 1:7 to show the Lord's 
approval of the married state and that he wanted the world to continue from genera- 
tion to generation. 

''LCC 2:63. 

''Cf. J. Dupont, Manage et divorce dans I'evangile: Matthieu 19,3-12 et paralleles 
(Bruges: Desclee de Brouwer, 1959) 166, n. 2. 

'°°FC 23:221. 


who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom 
"derive this idea, . . . from a wish to avoid the distractions involved in 
marriage, because they are afraid of having to waste time in providing 
the necessities of life."'"' This sounds very much like some of the 
remarks Paul makes in 1 Cor 7:25-35 concerning the benefits of the 
single life. 

In another passage (Stromata 3.1.4) Clement speaks of contin- 
ence in the widest sense of a discipline of one's whole life. It is not 
concerned only with sexual abstinence. Continence (eyKpaxeia), he 

does not only teach us to exercise self-control (aa)(ppov8iv); it is rather 
that self-control is granted to us, since it is a divine power and grace. 
Accordingly I must declare what is the opinion of our people about 
this subject. Our view is that we welcome as blessed the state of 
abstinence from marriage in those to whom this has been granted by 
God (f)|i8i(; euvouxiotv |j,£v Kai olg toOto 5s5(bpr|Tai ut:6 GsoO ^aKapl- 
^o|aEV [cf. Matt. 19:1 lb]). We admire monogamy and the high standing 
of single marriage (xov sva yd|aov), holding that we ought to share 
suffering with another and "bear one another's burdens," lest anyone 

In this passage Clement clearly understands the never-before-married 
state to be a gift granted by God. 

In Stromata 3.7.59 Clement again notes that continence is not 
merely in relation to sexual relations but concerns all the indulgences 
that the soul craves. 

As for ourselves, we set high value on continence which arises from 
love to the Lord and seeks that which is good for its own sake, 
sanctifying the temple of the Spirit. It is good if for the sake of the 
kingdom of heaven a man emasculates himself (5ia xfiv |3aai?iE{av twv 
oupavcov zmovxi^^iy eauxov) from all desire, and "purifies his con- 
science from dead works to serve the living God."'°^ 

Here, Clement does not understand the third category of eunuchs in 
Matt 19:12 to apply only to one who never marries. '"'' The one who 
never marries is like the one who resists desire in that both exercise 
the virtue of self-control. 

Finally, in Stromata 3.15.99, Clement again seems to be respond- 
ing to the misinterpretation of Matt 19:12 given by the heretics in 

""LCC 2:40. 

'°'LCC 2:41-42. 

""LCC 2:67. Cf. Schneider, TDNT 2J6S. 

'"'Tertullian {To His Wife 1.6 [ACW 13:18]) applies the third category of eunuchs 
in Matt 19:12 to the condition of those who refrain from sexual relations within 

heth: unmarried "for the sake of the kingdom" 85 

3.1.1. He concludes: "but blessed are those who have made them- 
selves eunuchs, free from all sin, for the sake of the kingdom of 
heaven by their abstinence from the world." '°^ 

These, then, are all of the references to Matt 19:12 in the writings 
of Clement of Alexandria. "^^ They indicate clearly that Clement 
employs the terms syKpdxEia and euvouxici "in their widest sense of a 
discipline of one's whole life and conduct rather than in the narrower 
sense of abstinence from coitus and he recognizes that the duties of 
marriage are just as much things belonging to the Lord as the duties 
of a continent life (c[hap.] 12)."'°' 

It is perhaps not by accident nor due to Clement's own her- 
meneutical practice'^* that he interprets the third category of eunuchs 
(Matt 19:12c) in the broad sense noted above. The Gnostic heretics 
were using Matt 19:12 to support their own deprecation of marriage. 
Thus in arguing against the heretics' distorted view of marriage, "^^ it 
would hardly have been advantageous to interpret Jesus' eunuch- 
saying straightforwardly as a challenge (for those who could make 
room for it) to forego marital life for the sake of being more devoted 
to the Lord. To emphasize this aspect of Jesus' teaching in Matt 19:3- 
12 would have only justified the heretics' distorted practice. 

This brings us back to Stromata 3.6.50 and the point that 
Clement does emphasize in his own interpretation of Matt 19:12 in 
the context of vv 3-12. For Clement, Jesus' condemnation of divorce 
followed by remarriage to another "° is evidence of Jesus' high view of 
the marriage relationship. The heretics who oppose marriage and use 
Matt 19:12 as one of their proof texts, says Clement, do not take note 
of the context in which Jesus makes this remark about "eunuchs," 
one that exhibits a high view of marriage. 

After his word about divorce some asked him whether, if that is the 
position in relation to women, it is better not to marry; and it was then 
that the Lord said: "Not all can receive this saying, but those to whom 

'"'LCC 2:87. 

'°*Cf. Biblia Patristica 1: Des origines a Clement d'Alexandrie et Tertullien (Paris: 
Editions du centre national de la recherche scientifique, 1975) 271. 

'°'Ford, "St Paul, the Philogamist," 327. 

'"^Clement talks about others who pervert the words of the Lord (3.4.27), mis- 
apply sound doctrine (3.4.29), interpret in a literal sense sayings intended to be 
understood allegorically (3.4.38), do not interpret contextually (3.6.50), and force 
Scripture in favor of their own immoral opinions (3.8.61). Clement is not above 
hermeneutical errors himself, of course. 

'°'Cf. R. M. Grant, "The Heresy of Tatian,"yr5NS 5 (1954) 62-68. 

""Clement emphasizes "single marriage" throughout Book 3 {Stromata 3.1.4; 
3.11.74; 3.12.80, 82). 

'"For the meaning of Matt 19:11 and the debate over what "this saying" refers to 
in the context of Matt 19:9-12, see W. A. Heth and G. J. Wenham, Jesus and Divorce: 


when a man's wife has been condemned for fornication, it is allowable 
to him to marry another. 

Clement thinks the close connection of the eunuch-saying with Jesus' 
saying in Matt 19:9 should be obvious to the reader of Matthew's 
Gospel. What does Clement see in this passage that the modern day 
reader has apparently overlooked? 

In light of the ascetics who basically condemned marriage by 
employing Matt 19:12, Clement is most likely suppressing (though 
not misinterpreting) the invitation to singleness for those who have 
been enabled to accept it (vv \2c-d). Instead he focuses on Jesus' 
statement in v 11, "Not all men can accept this statement," where 
"this statement" refers to the hard saying on the need to remain single 
(cf. 1 Cor 7:11a?) after divorcing adulterous wives (v 9),"^ since any 
remarriage results in adultery (cf. Matt 5:32b). This is the teaching to 
which the disciples have just objected (v 10). On this understanding, 
Jesus, as if to demonstrate that continence in singleness after a 
broken marriage is not as difficult as the disciples make it to be, 
presents a most convincing example by arguing from the greater to 
the lesser. Those who must live without sexual relations after an 
unfortunate divorce are in no worse a position than those who were 
born eunuchs or made eunuchs by men. These eunuchs live apart 
from marital relations unaided by the grace of God. Jesus' disciples, 
who find themselves in a state of singleness after divorce, should be 
able to do as much since they are aided by the enabling grace of God. 
Jesus then proclaims the existence of a new category of "eunuchs" 
(v 12c). These so-called "eunuchs" have a special grace-gift or calling 
from God and have chosen not to marry because they have become 
so captivated by the kingdom of God (cf. Matt 13:44) and its claims 
upon their lives (cf. 1 Cor 7:17-24). Jesus then concludes with a call 
to faith: "He who is able to accept this, let him accept it" (v 12c?). In 
this context the call to faithful living is directed to two groups of 
people: (1) those disciples who might be so inclined to forego mar- 
riage because of their personal calling to be totally devoted to their 
Lord (as Paul found himself to be; cf. 1 Cor. 1:7a, Sb, 25-26, 2Sb, 
29-35, 40); and (2) those disciples who find it difficult to accept and 
live by Jesus' teaching concerning the lifelong permanence of mar- 

To war(i5 an Evangelical Understanding of New Testament Teaching (London: Hodder & 
Stoughton, 1984; Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1985) 53-68. 

Clement is not focusing on the negative, almost sarcastic remark of the disciples 
(v 10) that it would be best not to marry at all if a man cannot get out of an 
undesirable marriage and begin again with another. Perhaps Clement is attempting to 
correct those who did interpret the passage in this way and then used it to teach that 
marriage should be avoided altogether. 

heth: unmarried "for the sake of the kingdom" 87 

riage, namely, that faithful disciples do not remarry after divorce. 
Clement of Alexandria appears to focus on the latter emphasis of 
Matt 19:9-12 in his attempt to defend the sanctity of marriage in the 
face of those heretics who degraded it. 

This understanding of the eunuch-saying in the context of the 
divorce controversy that precedes it is not only attractive, but it helps 
to explain two phenomena in the early church: (1) Many Christians 
chose to forego marriage in their desire to serve Christ as best they 
knew how; and (2) the early church in the first five centuries almost 
unanimously rejected remarriage after divorce, even if the divorce was 
for Matthew's Tiopvsia exception. Clement affirms that the ability to 
forego marriage in one's desire to serve God is a gift granted by God; 
but the eunuch-saying also carries a message for those disciples who 
feared the consequences of violating Jesus' teaching about the lifelong 
permanence of marriage. Jesus assures his disciples that God will 
grant separated spouses the grace necessary to remain single and 
avoid committing adultery by remarriage to another. "With men this 
is impossible, but with God all things are possible" (Matt 19:26). God 
enables faithful disciples to do that which he commands. 

conclusions and implications 

This study has demonstrated that remaining single "because of 
the claims and interests of the kingdom of God" was clearly im- 
pressed on the minds and lives of many of the early Christians. The 
practice of celibacy in the early church cannot be wholly or even 
primarily attributed to the influence of the ascetic tendencies of the 
day, though it was certainly aided by them. Both the concepts and the 
terminology of Matt 19:12 and 1 Cor 7:7 stand behind this practice. 
The ability to remain continent in singleness was considered to be a 
gift granted by God, and the one who was entrusted with such a gift 
was exhorted to remember the Giver of it and to beware of thinking 
that his abilities were found in himself. When God is the giver of both 
grace and gifts it is inappropriate to think that the one with the gift of 
singleness somehow stands on a higher spiritual plane than those who 
marry. Whether single or married, what matters is obedience to God 
and becoming more like Christ (Rom 8:29). 

The single person devoted to the Lord is certainly not a second- 
class citizen in the church as is often implied today. "^ On the contrary, 
the single person who feels called to a life of singleness for the sake of 
serving the Lord more fully — let a warning against some ascetic 
legalism here be sounded — may even be thought of as an eschato- 
logical sign that Christians are living between the times: the time of 

'"Cf. J. Bayly, "Saved, Single, and Second Class," Eternity, March 1983, 23-26. 


Christ's resurrection and the time of his parousia. The single person 
committed to Christ reminds the married person that he too must be 
committed to Christ (cf. 1 Cor 7:29), for a time is coming when men 
neither marry nor are given in marriage (Matt 22:30flf.). Marriage has 
an eschatological limit, but one's relationship with and devotion to 
the Lord does not. Uppermost in every disciple's mind ought to be 
the urgency of obedience to our Lord and the claims and interests of 
his kingdom. 

Grace TheologicalJournal%.\ (1987) 89-99 


Stephen R. Spencer 

The oft-asserted view that a presuppositional apologetic is in- 
herently fideistic raises the question of whether Cornelius Van Til 
was, indeed, afideist. When Van Til's writings are examined in light 
of fideism defined as an advocacy of faith as the sole source of 
reliance in the ascertaining of truth, fideism is seen as incompatible 
with Van Til's position. His presuppositional approach manifests a 
concern for truth, for rationality, and for a faith that has both 
content and foundation. 


CERTAINLY One of the most frequent characterizations of the pre- 
suppositional apologetic of Cornelius Van Til is that it is 
"fideistic." Lewis, for example, is concerned that Van Til, despite 
serving forty-five years as a professor of apologetics, has constructed 
a system of theology, not a system of apologetics.' In Lewis's estima- 
tion. Van Til has not supplied a means of disputing with unbelievers 
concerning the truthfulness of Christianity. "In the name of defending 
the faith he has left the faith defenseless."^ 

Montgomery likewise warns against Van Til's tendency to treat 
the unbehever as a believer, working out systematic theology and its 
implications rather than verifying Christianity by "focusing upon 
their needs" and using as a "starting point" the "common rationality."^ 
Montgomery fears that Van Til has given the unbeliever "the impres- 
sion that our gospel is as aprioristically, fideistically irrational as the 
presuppositional claims of its competitors."'* 

'G. R. Lewis, "Van Til and Carnell-Part I," in Jerusalem and Athens (ed. E. R. 
Geehan; Philadelphia: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1971) 349. 

^Ibid., 361; see also his review of W. White, Jr., Van Til: Defender of the Faith 
{Eternity [1979] 44). 

'j. W. Montgomery, "Once Upon An A Priori,^'' in Jerusalem and Athens (ed. E. R. 
Geehan; Philadelphia: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1971) 391. 



Pinnock also raises the same issue. While saluting the contribu- 
tion that Van Til has made to "a virile twentieth century apologetic," 
Pinnock contends that "a curious epistemology derived from a modern 
Calvinistic school of philosophy in Holland has led him to align his 
orthodox theology with a form of irrational fideism."^ 

Geisler, in his Christian Apologetics, includes Van Til in his 
chapter on fideism along with Pascal, Kierkegaard, and Barth. Geisler 
states that Van Til "speaks from a strong Reformed Biblical perspec- 
tive theologically and yet in an absolute revelational presuppositional- 
ism apologetically."^ "Methodological jfideism" is Geisler's term for 
this position.^ Geisler notes five "central contentions" that are char- 
acteristic of fideism (including, apparently, that of Van Til): (1) faith 
alone is the way to God; (2) truth is not found in the purely rational 
or objective realm, if it is there at all; (3) evidence and reason do not 
point definitively in the direction of God; (4) the tests of truth are 
existential, not rational; and (5) not only God's revelation but his 
grace is the source of all truth.^ 

Hanna has contended that "presuppositionism" (as he terms it) is 
able, in response to inquiries as to the warrant for belief, to answer 
only "in terms of obscurantistic fideism."^ Hanna regularly uses pre- 
suppositionism and fideism interchangeably in his book. 

More recently, Sproul, Gerstner, and Lindsley have argued that — 
protestations to the contrary not withstanding — Van Til's apologetic 
has no place (or at least no warranted place) for reasoning with or 
giving evidence to unbeHevers.^° In their judgment, fideism is the 
inevitable result of Van Til's presuppositionaHsm. 

Are these critics correct? Is Van Til's presuppositionaHsm fideis- 
tic? This study considers the meaning of fideism, examines its appro- 
priateness as a label for Van Til's position, and concludes with a more 
extended analysis of the term "presuppositional." 

The diversity in the definitions of fideism is striking. Anything 
approaching unanimity is lamentably absent. It is not that the defini- 
tions are antithetical, but rather that their nuances vary significantly. 
Obviously, the term derives from the Latin word for faith {fides), but 

^C. H. Pinnock, "A Philosophy of Christian Evidences," Jerusalem and Athens 
(ed. E. R. Geehan; Philadelphia: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1971) 425. 

'N. Geisler, Christian Apologetics (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1976) 56. 

'Ibid., 57. 

^Ibid., 58-59. 

'M. M. Hanna, Crucial Questions in Apologetics (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1981) 96. 

'°R. C. Sproul, J. Gerstner, A. Lindsley, Classical Apologetics (Grand Rapids: 
Zondervan, 1984) 304-9. 

spencer: fideism and presupposition alism 91 

having agreed upon that, one must decide upon the precise signifi- 
cance of the term. Fideism focuses on faith, but how is faith defined? 
How is it related to reason, knowledge, proof, and evidence? How is 
it related to truth? These questions are not usually given the same 

Perhaps a composite definition of fideism can be constructed. 
The modifiers that are most often associated with the term, either 
implicitly or explicitly, include "irrational," "blind," "subjectivistic," 
or "leap." There is also the frequent implication that faith is its own 
warrant, its own criterion, in the adjudication of truth-claims. Fideism 
would therefore advocate faith as the sole or perhaps final source of 
reliance in the ascertaining of truth. This statement may be limited to 
religious or theological matters or it may be extended to all epistemo- 
logical questions. The definition would include the denigration of 
reason as useful in the specified realm. Additionally, fideism seems to 
call into question (or perhaps, more passively, to ignore) the grounds 
for faith, thus becoming "a bHnd leap in the dark," characterized by a 
focus upon the agent's activity of believing rather than upon the 
object of one's belief (subjectivism rather than objectivism). Thus 
faith, that is, the act of believing, is its own standard, its own 
warrant. One decides by deciding. Faith is a kind of "will to believe." 

If this is an accurate description of fideism, then it would appear 
to be unacceptable for Christians because it is incompatible with 
Scripture. Christ urges the Jews to believe him because of his works 
(John 5:36; 10:37, 38). In fact, in John 5, Christ puts forth several 
bases or reasons for believing in him: his words, his works, John the 
Baptist's witness, and the witness of God and Scripture. 

Moreover, faith is repeatedly represented in Scripture as trust or 
reliance upon that which is trustworthy; assent to that which is 
worthy. Faith thus has an object and a basis. It is intimately related 
to truth and not merely to the individual's strength of will. Faith is a 
relationship to that which is; it does not create its object. In short, 
faith is trust in (involving assent to) someone or something that is 
worthy of trust. And faith does not seem itself to be the criterion of 
the "worthiness" of the object; rather it is a response to that which 
already meets a criterion of "worthiness," whatever that may be. 
Moreover, the opposition (and perhaps even the distinction) between 
faith and reason (or believing and knowing), which is implicit in 
fideism, is foreign to Scripture. 

As defined above, fideism falls short of the biblical pattern of 
faith. It is also incompatible with Van Til's position. As early as 1932, 
in what is in many respects an expansion of his 1925 Th.M. thesis by 
the same title. Van Til attempted to "remove the common misunder- 
standing that Christianity is opposed to factual investigation." "The 


greater the amount of detailed study and the more carefully such 
study is undertaken, the more truly Christian will the method be"^' 
(referring to what he terms "the inductive aspect of the method of 
implication"). To hold to the doctrine of the authority of Scripture 
when the believer "knows that it can be empirically shown to be 
contrary to the facts of Scripture themselves" is "obscurantistic," 
according to Van Til. "It goes without saying that such should not be 
his attitude. "^^ 

In his syllabus on Christian — Theistic Evidences, Van Til notes, 
"it is quite commonly held that we [apparently. Van Til is referring to 
"modern educated men"] cannot accept anything that is not conso- 
nant with the result of a sound scientific methodology. With this we 
can as Christians heartily agree." '^ Later in that work he notes that 
"the Christian position is certainly not opposed to experimentation 
and observation."'"* 

On pp. 34-35 of this work, he explicitly discusses fideism, divid- 
ing its advocates into two classes: "the consistent fideists hold that no 
defense of any sort is possible. The inconsistent fideists contend that 
Christianity may be scientifically, but cannot be philosophically, 
defended."'^ He describes the former group: 

They saw no way of harmonizing the facts of the Christian religion 
with the "constitution and course of nature." They gave up the idea of 
a philosophical apologetics entirely. This fideistic attitude comes to 
expression frequently in the statement of the experiential proof of the 
truth of Christianity. People will say that they know that they are 
saved and that Christianity is true no matter what the philosophical or 
scientific evidence for or against it may be. And this is done not only 
by those who have had no opportunity to investigate the evidence for 
Christianity, but also by those who have. But, in thus seeking to 
withdraw from all intellectual argument, such fideists have virtually 
admitted the validity of the argument against Christianity. They will 
have to believe in their hearts what they have virtually allowed to be 
intellectually indefensible.'* 

Thus Van Til conceives of commitment to Christ and Christianity as 
involving investigation. What Christianity asserts must indeed be the 

"C. Van Til, Survey of Christian Epistemology (Philadelphia: Presbyterian and 
Reformed, 1969; retitled reprint of Van Til's 1932 work. The Metaphysics of Apolo- 
getics) 1. 

C. Van Til, A Christian Theory of Knowledge (Philadelphia: Presbyterian and 
Reformed, 1969) 35. 

'^C. Van Til, Christian- Theistic Evidences (Philadelphia: Presbyterian and Re- 
formed, 1976) X. 

"Ibid., 57. 

"Ibid., 35. 

"Ibid., 34. 

spencer: fideism and presuppositionalism 93 

real state of affairs or else the commitment is erroneous. Faith must 
have truth as its object. Christians ought not to believe (or, "believe 
in") that which is false. Van Til states: 

Christianity meets every legitimate demand of reason. Surely Chris- 
tianity is not irrational. To be sure, it must be accepted on faith, but 
surely it must not be taken on blind faith. Christianity is capable of 
rational defense.''' 

When we say that God is a mystery for us we do not mean that our 
knowledge of him is not true as far as it goes. When we say that God is 
"absolutely Other" we do not mean that there is not a rational relation 
between God and us. As God created us in accordance with his plan, 
that is, as God created us in accordance with his absolute rationality, 
so there must be a rational relationship from us to God. Christianity is, 
in the last analysis not an absolute irrationalism, but an absolute 
"rationalism." In fact we may contrast every non-Christian epistemol- 
ogy with Christian epistemology by saying that Christian epistemology 
believes in an ultimate rationalism while all other systems of episte- 
mology believe in an ultimate irrationalism.'* 

Van Til, at least if we give credence to his own statement, is not a 
fideist.*' Perhaps, however, he is inconsistent with his stated prin- 
ciples. Perhaps he fails to realize his goal. Does Van Til in the 
elaboration of his presuppositional apologetic violate his ostensive 


In one of several passages in which Van Til explains what he 
means by the term presuppositionalism,^" he states, "To argue by 
presupposition is to indicate what are the epistemological and meta- 

physical principles that underlie and control one's method."^' He 

The method of reasoning by presupposition may be said to be indirect 
rather than direct. The issue between believers and non-believers in 
Christian Theism cannot be settled by a direct appeal to "facts" or 
"laws" whose nature and significance is already agreed upon by both 

"C. Van Til, Common Grace and the Gospel (Philadelphia: Presbyterian and 
Reformed, 1972) 184. 

'*C. Van Til, The Defense of the Faith (3rd ed., Philadelphia: Presbyterian and 
Reformed, 1967)41. 

"See also G. L. Bahnsen, "Inductivism, Inerrancy, and Presuppositionalism," 
JETS 20 (1977) 292-95; and T. Notaro, Van Til and the Use of Evidence (Phillipsburg, 
NJ: Craig, 1980). 

^°Van Til, The Defense of the Faith, 99-105. 

"Ibid., 99. 


parties to the debate. The question is rather as to what is the final 
reference-point required to make the "facts" and "laws" intelligible. 
The question is as to what the "facts" and "laws" really are. Are they 
what the non-Christian methodology assumes that they are? Are they 
what the Christian theistic methodology presupposes they are? 

The answer to this question cannot be finally settled by any direct 
discussion of "facts." It must, in the last analysis, be settled indirectly. 
The Christian apologist must place himself upon the position of his 
opponent, assuming the correctness of his [the opponent's] method 
merely for argument's sake, in order to show him that on such a 
position the "facts" are not facts and the "laws" are not laws. He must 
also ask the non-Christian to place himself upon the Christian position 
for argument's sake in order that he may be shown that only upon such 
a basis do "facts" and "laws" appear intelligible.^^ 

Later Van Til clarifies this position when he writes, 

every bit of historical investigation, whether it be in the directly Biblical 
field, archaeology or in general history, is bound to confirm the truth 
of the claims of the Christian position. But I would not talk endlessly 
about facts and more facts without ever challenging the non-believer's 
philosophy of fact.^^ 

Van Til is concerned, therefore, to deal with the foundations of a 
philosophy of life or a world-view, on the conviction that the mean- 
ing of particular terms and aspects of life is determined by those 
foundations. However, he does not seem to argue for a more or less 
arbitrary postulation of the Christian foundation as merely one of 
several alternatives, each of which is viable. Rather, he is arguing that 
though there are a number of ostensible alternatives, only one is in 
fact viable: "It will then appear that Christian theism ... is the only 
position which gives human reason a field for successful operation 
and a method of true progress in knowledge. "^"^ 

This is so, in Van Til's judgment, because the only alternative to 
Christian theism is a position ultimately based upon chance. Speak- 
ing of the "natural man" or unregenerate. Van Til points out. 

On his assumption his own rationality is a product of chance. On his 
assumption even the laws of logic which he employs are products of 
chance. The rationality and purpose that he may be searching for are 
still bound to be products of chance. So then the Christian apologist, 
whose position requires him to hold that Christian theism is really true 
and as such must be taken as the presupposition which alone makes the 
acquisition of knowledge in any field intelligible, must join his "friend" 

''Ibid., 100-101. 
''ibid., 199. 
''Ibid., 102. 

spencer: fideism and presuppositionalism 95 

in his hopeless gyrations so as to point out to him that his efforts are 
always in vain." 

What are the implications of this for apologetic disputation? 
Since the discussion, according to Van Til, concerns the foundations 
of one's position, can we do anything besides merely assert our mes- 
sage? The answer to this question has been indicated in the quotation 
from Van Til. The Christian position must be demonstrated to be the 
only viable foundation for life in all of its complexity. For Van Til, 
presuppositions are proven (albeit indirectly), not merely "picked": 

the best and only possible proof for the existence of such a God is that 
his existence is required for the uniformity of nature and for the 
coherence of all things in the world. We cannot prove the existence of 
beams underneath a floor if by proof we mean that they must be 
ascertainable in the way that we can see the chairs and tables of the 
room. But the very idea of a floor as the support of tables and chairs 
requires the idea of beams that are underneath. Thus there is absolutely 
certain proof for the existence of God and the truth of Christian 

Van Til contends that the argument by presupposition is "objectively 
valid" even if it is "subjectively unacceptable" to the unregenerate.'^^ 
The denial of Christianity's truth does nothing to detract from its 
actual veracity: 

the Reformed apologist maintains that there is an absolutely valid 
argument for the existence of God and for the truth of Christian 
theism. He cannot do less without virtually admitting that God's reve- 
lation to man is not clear. It is fatal for the Reformed apologist to 
admit that man has done justice to the objective evidence if he comes 
to any other conclusion than that of the truth of Christian theism. ^^ 

Like the Reformed preacher proclaiming the Gospel to an unrecep- 
tive unregenerate, "he does not say that his message is less certainly 
true because of its non-acceptance by the natural man."^^ 

Thus, contrary to the prevailing consensus by both critic and 
disciple. Van Til does have a place for proofs in his apologetics. 
Frame has collected a rather formidable list of passages in which Van 
Til articulates his position regarding proofs. ^*^ 

''Ibid., 103. 
"ibid., 104. 

^"j. M. Frame, "The Problem of Theological Paradox," in The Foundations of 
Christian Scholarship (ed. G. North; Vallecito, CA: Ross, 1976) 301. 


To say that the argument for Christianity and for the existence of God 
is absolutely valid, I am merely applying the idea that God's revelation 
without and within man is perspicuous. If then man rightly interprets 
this revelation he has an absolutely valid argument for the truth. ^' 

There is objective evidence in abundance and it is sufficiently clear. 
Men ought, if only they reasoned rightly, to come to the conclusion 
that God exists. That is to say, if the theistic proof is constructed as it 
ought to be constructed, it is objectively valid, whatever the attitude of 

If theistically stated, the arguments do nothing but give the content of 
the revelation of God to man and argue that it is the only reasonable 

He goes on to explain what he means by "correct construction" of the 
theistic proof: 

To be constructed rightly, theistic proof ought to presuppose the 
ontological trinity and contend that, unless we may make this pre- 
supposition, all human predication is meaningless. The words "cause," 
"purpose," and "being," used as universals in the phenomenal world, 
could not be so used with meaning unless we may presuppose the self- 
contained God. If the matter is put this way, one argument is as sound 
as the other. Nor is any one of the arguments then at any point 
vulnerable. And future research cannot change their validity.^" 

In Van Til's judgment, the theistic proofs should be stated "in 
such a manner as to make God the presupposition of the possibility 
of predication in every sphere of life."^^ 

What is the relationship of Van Til's proof of the existence of 
God by presupposition to the classic theistic proofs? Van Til states: 

the true theistic proofs undertake to show that the ideas of existence 
(ontological proof), of cause (cosmological proof), and purpose (teleo- 
logical proof) are meaningless unless they presuppose the existence of 

All of the theistic arguments should really be taken together and 
reduced to the one argument of the possibility of human predication. 
Intelligent predication about anything with respect to nature or with 

"Van Til, Common Grace and the Gospel, 180. 
^^Ibid., 49. 

"C. Van Til, An Introduction to Systematic Theology (Philadelphia: Presbyterian 
and Reformed, 1974) 199. 

'"Van Til, Common Grace and the Gospel, 49-50. 
'^Van Til, An Introduction to Systematic Theology, 198. 
'Van Til, Common Grace and the Gospel, 190. 

spencer: fideism and presuppositionalism 97 

respect to man were impossible unless God existed as the ultimate 
reference point of it all." 

In answer to the question, then, it is clear that Van Til attempts to 
reconstruct the proofs in terms of distinctly Christian formulations of 
the concepts that are involved as well as to "deepen" them by seeking 
for the only ultimately viable foundation for all of life and reality. 


Bahnsen writes that "when world-views collide, the Christian 
transcendental epistemology calls for us to ask what foundations 
knowledge must have in order for man intelligibly to understand the 
facts at all."^^ Elsewhere it has been observed that: 

many followers of Van Til see his system as a kind of transcendental 
argument which contends that it is absolutely necessary to presuppose 
the divine revelation in the Bible before one can consistently think, 
communicate, do science, or make any sense out of life or his world. ^' 

Both quotations include a crucial element for interpreting Van 
Til's position. That element is the "transcendental" dimension to his 
thought. As White notes, Van Til found his term "presupposition" in 
Immanuel Kant."*" In his first Critique, Kant "found it necessary to 
deny knowledge, in order to make room for faith,"'*^ at least in 
relationship to three topics: "God, freedom, and immortality.""*^ In 
his second Critique, Kant argues for the existence of God, not on the 
basis of speculative reason ("knowledge") but rather practical reason 
("faith"). Kant attempts to establish that, because of the reality of 
freedom and moral activity (involving also immortality as the occa- 
sion for future judgment of one's morality), it must be concluded that 
God also exists as the undergirding of morality and immortality. 

In his discussion Kant uses terms such as presupposition, supreme 
ground, postulate, supposition, and assumption."*^ His point seems to 

Van Til, An Introduction to Systematic Theology, 102. 

'^G. Bahnsen, "Pragmatism, Prejudice, and Presuppositionalism," in Foundations 
of Christian Scholarship (ed., G. North; Vallecito, CA: Ross, 1976) 290. 

"N. L. Geisler and P. D. Feinberg, An Introduction to Philosophy (Grand 
Rapids: Baker, 1980) 264. 

'°W. White, Jr., Van Til: Defender of the Faith (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1979) 

■"l. Kant, Critique of Pure Reason (Unabridged edition, trans. N. K. Smith; New 
York: St. Martins, 1965) 29. 


"^I. Kant, Critique of Practical Reason (trans. L. W. Beck; Indianapolis: Bobbs- 
Merrill, 1956) 128-36. 


be that God is the "transcendental precondition" for freedom, moral- 
ity, and immortality. That is, God is the essential or necessary foun- 
dation in reality which makes possible these aspects of our life and 

This is not to say that Van Til or his followers are Kantians or 
that they endorse Kant's moral argument for the existence of God. It 
is merely to clarify that, by the term "presupposition" (as it refers to 
God), Van Til seems to have in mind not merely an epistemological 
axiom (and surely not an arbitrary or voluntaristic epistemological 
axiom) but rather an ontological (his term is "metaphysical") referent 
(which is, of course, significant for both epistemology and axiology). 
He is referring to that which (more properly, "him who") is the sole 
sufficient support and explanation of all of life and reality. When we 
examine life in all of its complexity, only one explanation is sufficient — 
the Triune God of whom Scripture speaks, who created, sustains, and 
guides all that exists. 

If such be the case, Van Til's presuppositionalism is scarcely 
fideistic. It must be admitted that Van Til's criticisms of traditional 
apologetics and the classic theistic proofs sometimes are less than full- 
orbed and judiciously balanced, which can easily lead (and has in fact 
led) to misinterpretation. Moreover, some of his followers exceed him 
in opacity and extremity of statement, further distorting the picture. 
Nevertheless, Van Til's presuppositionalism does not manifest the 
various characteristics of fideism noted earlier. Instead, he manifests 
concern for truth, for rationality, for faith that has both content and 
basis. Van Til's position may be considered by some to be erroneous, 
but it cannot rightly be considered fideistic. 


One of the aspects of Van Til's presuppositional argument is the 
notion that only God is "sufficient" as a foundation for life and 
reality. In light of the continuing discussion on the meaning and 
specification of "adequacy" as it relates to evidence and proof, it 
would seem advisable to those working with Van Til's position to 
specify what constitutes "sufficiency" or "adequacy" as they use it. 
Van Til's substantiation of his claim regarding God as alone suffi- 
cient, arguing by means of the "impossibility of the contrary" (i.e., a 
chance universe) is essentially the theme of his Survey of Christian 
Epistemology. Perhaps the discussion could well start there. 

See C. S. Evans, Subjectivity and Religious Belief (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 
1978) 15-73, for a further discussion of this issue in Kant. 

spencer: fideism and presuppositionalism 99 

Followers of Van Til might also compare his "presupposition" 
with John Montgomery's "self-evident axioms,""^ Hanna's "universal 
givens,"''^ Geisler's "undeniable truths,"'*^ and Clark's "unprovable 
assumptions."''* In contrast to Van Til, these terms would appear to 
be epistemological, not ontological, but that point needs to be care- 
fully argued in terms of their discussion. If, as has been argued, Van 
Til's presuppositionalism is not fideistic, the dispute with rival schools 
of thought must lie elsewhere than in the use of evidence and proof. 

"'j. W. Montgomery, Faith Founded On Fact (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1978) 
92-93 n. 27. 

''^Hanna, Crucial Questions, 95. 

"'Geisler, Christian Apologetics, 143-45. 

''^G. H. Clark, A Christian View of Men and Things (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 
1952) 29. 

Grace TheologicalJournal%.\ (1987) 101-114 


Rex a. Koivisto 

The points of seeming divergence between Stephen 's words in 
Acts 7 and the OT record have engendered attacks on inerrancy by 
some and attempts at reconciliation by others. A current approach to 
reconciliation involves the attempt to distinguish between inerrancy 
of content and inerrancy of record in Acts 7. This views the diver- 
gences in Stephen's speech as admissible errors since inspiration is 
only posited of the author of Acts and not of Stephen as a character 
in the narrative. The present article seeks to show that three of these 
divergences are merely insertions into the narrative, not errors, and 
furthermore, that these divergences are calculated theological inser- 
tions. The result is a renewed need to seek their reconciliation with 
the OT record. 


Stephen's speech in Acts 7:2-53 has remained an enigma for much 
of modern scholarship. In its current form it is clearly the longest 
speech in the book of Acts, yet it diverges from the other speeches in 
the book in that it is non-apostolic and apparently non-kerygmatic' 
Furthermore, the content of the speech is held by some to be little 
more than a dry recitation of the history of the Hebrews, having little 
to do with the judicial framework into which the author of Acts has 
placed it.^ 

An even more difficult quandary is left for those who look for 
historical consistency with the OT in the speech, for it diverges from 
the OT historical record in at least five places.^ Several approaches 
toward a reconciUation of these conflicts have been attempted, but 

'Bruce classifies this speech as apologetic. See F. F. Bruce, The Speeches in the 
Acts of the Apostles (London: Tyndale, 1942) 5. 

^See particularly F. J. Foakes Jackson, "Stephen's Speech in Acts," JBL 49 (1930) 
283-86; and Benjamin Wisner Bacon, "Stephen's Speech: Its Argument and Doctrinal 
Relationship," in Biblical and Semitic Studies (New York: Yale, 1901) 213-29. 

^Cadbury listed ten divergences, but he included those instances where the speech 
introduces material that is otherwise unknown from the OT as well as those instances 


one that has been gaining vogue in recent years is an attempt to 
distinguish between inerrancy of content and inerrancy of record.'* 
This option leaves the divergences in Stephen's speech as admissible 
errors since inspiration, and its corollary, inerrancy, need only be 
posited of the author of Acts and not of Stephen as a character in the 

Aside from the hermeneutical problems such an approach intro- 
duces,^ those who would adopt this distinction as an attempt to retain 
inerrancy fail to observe two key factors: (1) the function of the so- 
called errors in the theology of the speech; and (2) Luke's adoption of 
that theology in Acts. Leaving the Lucan adoption to be treated 
elsewhere,^ it is the aim of this study to demonstrate that at least 
three of the "errors" in Stephen's speech are not inadvertent mistakes, 
but are calculated insertions in the narrative designed to emphasize 
certain theological points. The implication, of course, is that if this is 
correct, we must take these Stephanie statements seriously and ulti- 
mately attempt to reconcile them with the OT record. 


In order to evaluate the function of these discrepancies in the 
theology of Stephen's speech, it is first necessary to place them in the 

where the speech actually conflicts with the OT (H. J. Cadbury, The Book of Acts in 
History [New York: Harper, 1955] 102-3). Richard B. Rackham, following a similar 
inclusive approach, set the total divergences at fifteen (Richard B. Rackham, The Acts 
of the Apostles: An Exposition [London: Methuen, 1901] 99-101). 

"This view was suggested as early as 1879 by Albert Barnes in Notes on Acts 
(revised edition; New York: Harper, 1879) 138. It was taken up and developed at 
length, however, by G. T. Stokes in The Acts of the Apostles (New York: A. C. 
Armstrong, 1897) 31 Iff. For others suggesting this option, see the following: William 
Owen Carver, The Acts of the Apostles (Nashville: Broadman, 1916) 69; R. A. Torrey, 
Difficulties in the Bible (Chicago: Moody, n.d.) 97; Charles W. Carter and Ralph 
Earle, The Acts of the Apostles (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1959) 96. More recent 
suggestions of Lucan accuracy with Stephanie error have been given by Everett F. 
Harrison and Richard N. Longenecker. Harrison says, "That no alteration [of the 
problem in 7:14-16] was made by Luke or anyone else to bring the statement into 
conformity with Genesis speaks well for the accuracy with which the speech of Stephen 
was transmitted and later recorded by Luke" (E. F. Harrison, Acts: The Expanding 
Church [Chicago: Moody, 1975] 115). Longenecker similarly writes as follows: "Again, 
these [apparent confusions in 7:15, 16] are but further examples of the conflations and 
inexactitudes of Jewish popular religion, which, it seems, Luke simply recorded from 
his sources in his attempt to be faithful to what Stephen actually said in his portrayal" 
(Richard N. Longenecker, The Acts of the Apostles [EBC; Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 
1981] 341). 

'See, in this regard. Rex A. Koivisto, "Stephen's Speech: A Case Study in 
Rhetoric and Biblical Inerrancy," JETS 20 (1977) 353-64. 

^See Rex A. Koivisto, "Stephen's Speech and Inerrancy: An Investigation of the 
Divergences from Old Testament History in Acts 7" (unpublished Th.D. diss., Dallas 
Theological Seminary, 1982) 7-9; 157-59. 


context of that speech — it is in their context that Stephen's "errors" 
show their clearest theological import. 

Although the unity of the speech around a common theological 
theme has been questioned by a number of critics,^ there has been a 
strain of scholarship that has viewed the entire pericope of Acts 
6:1-8:3 as an integrated unit, the speech itself being a response to the 
allegations of Stephen's opponents.* Those accusations are found 
capsulized in the words of the false^ witnesses: "This fellow never 
stops speaking against the holy place and against the law. For we 
have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place 
and change the customs Moses handed down to us."'° From these 
words it can be concluded that the case against Stephen hinged upon 
his proclamation of Jesus of Nazareth, particularly as Jesus related to 
two of the most sacred Jewish institutions, Temple and Torah. Stephen 
is accused of saying that Jesus would "destroy" the Temple and 
"change" the Torah. '^ If these charges were sustained, the Sanhedrin 
could easily classify this as blasphemy, and Stephen would be per- 
ceived as having committed a capital offense.'^ 

This is mostly due to a tendency to see no relationship between the charges 
against Stephen and the speech. See Jackson, "Stephen's Speech," 283-86; Alfred 
Loisy, Les Actes des Apotres (Paris: Emile Nourry, 1920) 318. 

^J. Kilgallen traces the exegesis based on an integration with the accusations back 
to Chrysostom, Augustine, Bede, and Rupert of Dentz in Stephen 's Speech: A Literary 
and Redactional Study of Acts 7, 2-53 (Analecta Biblica 67; Rome: Biblical Institute 
Press, 1976) 6; cf. H. Wendt, Die Apostelgeschichte (Kritisch-exegetischer Kommentar, 
Part 3; Gottingen: Vanderhoeck and Ruprecht, 1899) 151. More recent exponents of 
this integration are E. Jacquier, Les Actes des Apotres (Etudes Bibliques; Paris: 
LecofiFre, 1920) 201; and F. F. Bruce, Commentary on the Book of Acts (NICNT; 
Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1954) 141. 

'H. Beyer believes that the witnesses were only false in that they opposed Stephen, 
whereas Stephen as a Hellenist did speak against the Temple as they claimed. Beyer 
argues that the degradation of the Temple was Stephen's particular way of declaring 
the Herrschermacht of Jesus {Die Apostelgeschichte [6th ed.; Gottingen: Vandenhoeck 
and Ruprecht, 1951] 46). One wonders, however, whether the degradation of the 
Temple was a Stephanie means of asserting the Herrschermacht of Jesus, or whether 
Stephen's declaration of the Herrschermacht of Jesus was misunderstood by his hearers 
as a degradation of the Temple. 

'°Acts 6:13-14. Unless otherwise noted, the biblical citations are taken from the 
NIV. The earlier accusations (6:11) are not the formal judicial allegations, but broad 
generalizations intended to stir up the crowds against Stephen (cf. 6:12). 

"Cf. Longenecker, Acts, 336. The words selected by these false witnesses are 
KaTaX,u(o (of the Temple) and aXJictoaco (of the Torah). Cf. our Lord's words in John 
2:19 (>.t)co) and the report of these words before the Sanhedrin by "false witnesses" 
(Kaxa^^uo), Matt 26:61; Mark 14:48; 15:29). 

'^Cf. the tradition later collected in the b. Sanhedrin 49b: "Stoning is severer than 
burning, since thus the blasphemer and idol-worshipper are executed. Wherein lies the 
enormity of these offences? — Because they constitute an attack upon the fundamental 
belief of Judaism." 


Given the not unreasonable assumption that Luke recorded the 
accusations because he saw a definite correlation between them and 
the content of the discourse, the next step is to observe any overriding 
emphases within the speech that correspond to the accusations. In 
this sense, the structure of the discourse indicates that it is not a dry 
recitation of well-known sacred history, but rather a carefully selected 
grouping of certain elements from within that history which were 
arranged and adapted to prove a theological point in response to 
legal accusations.^^ Although there was obviously a great bulk of 
material available to him, the speechmaker selected and grouped his 
material under five sections: 

A. Observations on Abraham (7:2-8) 

B. Observations on Joseph (7:9-16) 

C. Observations on Moses (7:17-43) 

D. Observations on the Temple (7:44-50) 

E. Direct application (7:71-53)''' 

"'The cutting edge of Stephanie studies has recently been involved with this careful 
redactive evaluation and is yielding results in terms of understanding the theological 
development of the speech. For an excellent treatment of one section of the speech 
commonly held to be irrelevant, see E. Richard, "The Polemical Character of the 
Joseph Episode in Acts 7," JBL 98 (1979) 255-67. 

'"Richard (257) offers a different division of the speech: 
I. History of the Patriarchs (2-16) 

A. Story of Abraham (2-8) 

B. Story of Joseph (9-16) 
II. History of Moses (17-19) 

A. Hebrews in Egypt (17-19) 

B. Moses prior to the Sinai event (20-29) 

C. Theophany and mission (30-34) 

III. Thematic section (35-50) 

A. Moses and the fathers (34-41) 

B. God and the fathers (42-50) 

IV. Invective against audience (51-53) 

J. Bihler, Die Stephanusgeschichte im Zusammenhang der Apostelgeschichte 
(Munchener Theologische Studien; Munich: Max Hueber Verlag, 1963) vii, finds a 
simpler threefold division: 

I. Die Geschichte Israels von Abraham bis Moses (2-37) 

A. Die Abrahamsgeschichte (2-8a) (8a=transition) 

B. Die Josephsgeschichte (9-16) (17-19=transition) 

C. Die Mosesgeschichte (20-37) 

II. Israel's Abfall: Gotzendienst und Tempelbau (38-50) 

A. Der Gotzendienst (38-43) 

B. Der Bau des Tempels (44-50) 
III. Der Schuld Israels (51-53) 

Kilgallen, Stephen's Speech, ix-xii, develops it this way: 
I. The Abraham Story (2-7) 
II. The Joseph Story (9-16) (8=transition) 


On Abraham 

The initial division of the speech ostensibly treats Abraham the 
patriarch, yet a careful evaluation reveals that the section is much 
more closely related to the "God of Glory" than to Abraham.'^ 
Abraham is selected and discussed, of course, as the father of the 
nation,'^ but his deeds are minimized while the divine activities are 
maximized. The speech thus gains a theological tenor from the outset. 
Since Stephen is accused of aberrant theological views, he produces 
an apologia not of himself, but of his theology. Abraham thus serves 
as a link between the land (which made the Temple of import) and 
the instructive oracle of Yahweh regarding the land. 

With this in mind, the location of the revelatory acts of God rises 
to prominence. Yahweh gave his revelation to Abraham in Ur and 
Haran, well outside the limits of the sacred land upon which the 
Temple came to be constructed (vv 2-4). When Abraham finally 
arrived in the land of promise, Stephen emphasizes that "(God) gave 
him no inheritance in it, not even a foot of ground" (v 5). Though 
God promised Abraham the possession of the land, it would be his 
only after his descendants were enslaved for four hundred years 
outside the land, "in a country not their own" (v 6). Then, after that 
lengthy delay, "they will come out of that country and worship me in 
this place" (v 7).^^ 

III. The Moses Story (17-43) 

IV. The Temple (44-50) 
V. Conclusion (51-53) 

It should be observed from this sampling that certain elements are commonly held; 
i.e., the concluding invective against the audience (51-53), the Abraham Story (2-8) 
and the Joseph Story (9-16). The bulk of variation comes in the division of the larger 
section of 17-50. Precisely where the Moses section ends and the Temple section begins 
is difficult to determine due to the use of a Mosaic element (the Tabernacle) as a pivot 
from which to launch into the discussion of the Temple. It is probably most logical to 
find a natural break at 44 due to the internal consistency of the unit from a literary 
standpoint (e.g., the constant use of the rhetorical ouioq in vv 35, 36, 37, and 38, and 
the connection of the final outoc; with the complete thought of 38-43. 

'^Note particularly the subject/ verb relationship in this section: the divine term 
6 Oeoc; is followed by eight verbs of which it is the subject (Ernst Carl Rauch, "Ueber 
den Martyrer Stephanus und den Inhalt, Zweck, und Gang seiner Rede; Apostel- 
geschichte 6 und 7," TSK 30 [1857] 363; and K. Panke, "Der Stephanismus der 
Apostelgeschichte," TSK%5 [1912] 4). 

'*Adolf Schlatter notes the significance of beginning with Abraham from a thematic 
perspective in Die Apostelgeschichte (Stuttgart: Calwer, 1962) 84. 

"it is common to see in this slight redaction of Gen 15:14 an inclusion of the term 
TOTToq as an oblique reference to the Temple, which would not serve as a focal point for 
worship until at least 430 years of Israel's history had elapsed (J. Bihler, Stephanus- 
geschichte, 43; and E. Jacquier, Actes, 2089). 


The theological point of this section is clear: the God of Israel is 
not tied to the land (upon which the Temple rests). ^^ The land must 
not be given the overriding significance that the Jewish contem- 
poraries of Stephen were giving to it. It certainly has importance as 
the gift of God to the descendants of Abraham in the fulfillment of 
promise (vv 6-7), but to require that the God of the promise be 
limited in his revelation and/ or worship to one place is to reduce that 
God to a localized deity unworthy of proper respect. 

That this consideration should be important to Luke in his 
theology and structure of Acts is clear. To this point the Church itself 
had been localized in Jerusalem, impeding progress on the fulfillment 
of the Great Commission (Acts 1:8). It is only after Stephen's speech 
and martyrdom that the Word of God is finally extended beyond 
Judea.'^ In view of this connection, it is difficult to deny that the 
theology of Stephen was central to the theology of Luke as he 
composed Acts. 

On Joseph 

Stephen's careful selection continues in the Joseph section with 
the omission of the Isaac and Jacob stories found in his sources and 
with the condensation of the eleven chapters of the Genesis account 
of Joseph into roughly eight verses. The key phrase to be considered 
thematically is found in verses 9-lOfl: "Because the patriarchs were 
jealous of Joseph they sold him as a slave into Egypt. But God was 
with him and rescued him from all his troubles." The earlier motif of 
God as transcending location is thus reiterated in the Joseph story.^° 
It is even possible that a slight polemical jab is here thrust at Stephen's 
auditors who, like the brothers of Joseph, were still in the land but 
were without God, disobedient, and suff"ering.^' 

'^Bruce captures this flavor well {Acts, 145): "It was in Mesopotamia, far from the 
promised land, that God first revealed Himself to Abraham. . . . Those who are 
obedient to the heavenly vision, Stephen seems to suggest, will always live loose to any 
one spot on earth, will always be ready to get out and go wherever God may guide." 
Cf. also Longenecker, Acts, 339; and Rauch, "Stephanus," 363-64. 

"in this connection see the fine summary by J. Julius Scott, "Stephen's Defense 
and the World Mission of the People of God," /^ra 21 (1978) 131-41. 

^"Richard ("Acts 7," 260) states the following in this regard: The Joseph section 
"emphasizes once more that the events of salvation history for the most part occur 
outside of Judaea." This commonality with the Abraham section had been noted 
earlier by B. Heather: "But there underlies this section [l:l-\6\, I think a suggestion 
that God was truly God, and the Hebrews were truly His people, long before Moses or 
his Law; with the immediate implication that the Mosaic legislation had no more than 
a relative value" ("Early Christian Homiletics: St. Stephen's Defence [Acts 7:2-53]," 
Australasian Catholic Record 5 [ 1 959] 238). 

^'Richard, "Acts 7," 260-61. 


It is in this section that a second theological motif arises, one 
that is to reappear in the final invective (vv 51-53). That motif is the 
exaltation of the rejected one as deliverer of the rejectors. ^^ It is this 
particular motif that serves as Stephen's means of both putting his 
interrogators on the defensive as well as proclaiming Christ from the 
Scriptures: Joseph, like Christ, was rejected by his brothers. This 
section, then, develops an offensive element in Stephen's "defense" as 
well, an element that will continue in the succeeding sections. 

On Moses 

As in the Joseph unit, Stephen has again selectively styled the 
Moses material with a theological point in mind. Both the "God 
outside the land" motif as well as the "rejected deliverer" motif find 
their places here. 

The former begins in the introductory sentences, where Stephen 
emphasizes the Egyptian location of the people (vv 17, 18, 22). The 
implication is that since the place from which Israel was delivered was 
Egypt, then obviously the God who delivered them cannot be restricted 
by national boundaries. This is emphasized even further by the follow- 
ing notations: It was in Midian that the divine oracle to Moses took 
place (v 29); and the divine workings were seen when God "did 
wonders and miraculous signs in Egypt, at the Red Sea, and for forty 
years in the desert'' (v 36).^^ 

The point is that if the land and the Temple are required for the 
presence of God among his people, then the fundamental historical/ 
theological roots of Israel as a nation must be excluded. Stephen's 
initial motif is thus strengthened by his selection of details from 
Moses' life. Yet it is the second motif, introduced in the Joseph 
section, that finds an even stronger emphasis. 

The "rejected deliverer" motif finds its furtherance here in the 
recounting of the story about Moses and the oppressive Egyptian 

Although this typological motif finds its detractors, there is a trend toward 
reasserting its legitimate existence in Stephen's speech. Earlier writers favoring this 
approach include Paton J. Gloag, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Acts 
of the Apostles (2 vols.; Minneapolis: Klock and Klock, 1979 reprint of 1870 ed.), 
1. 237; and R. B. Rackham, Acts, 103. More recently this has been promoted by 
C. S. C. Williams, A Commentary on the Acts of the Apostles (London: Adam and 
Charles Black, 1964) 105-6; and F. F. Bruce, Acts, 148. The most thorough treatment 
of this Joseph "typology" is found in Kilgallen {Stephen's Speech, 49-60), who sees the 
determining factor here in the distinctly Christian terms used in this section. 

"Maurice Carrez sees an even greater emphasis on this theme in the Moses section 
("Presence et Fonctionnement de L'Ancien Testament dans L'Annonce de L'Evangile," 
RSR 63 [1975] 333). See also Celestin Charlier, "Le Manifeste D'Etienne (Actes 7)," 
BVC 3 (1953) 87; and Longenecker, Acts, 344. 


(vv 23-29). The sacred lawgiver, Stephen recounts, "thought that his 
own people would realize that God was using him to rescue them, but 
they did not" (v 25). Similar to the Joseph episode, a polemical jab is 
thrust at the unresponsive people who were to have received the 
deliverance. They, in fact, refused deliverance by refusing the deliverer. 
It is the one the people rejected, says Stephen, that God used to save 
them: "This is the same Moses whom they had rejected with the 
word, 'who made you ruler and judge?' He was sent to be their ruler 
and deliverer by God himself, through the angel who appeared to him 
in the bush" (v 35).^' 

It was, in fact, the rejection of Moses that led ultimately to a 
rejection of God himself in the golden calf incident (vv 40-41) and, 
even further, in their idolatry throughout the desert wandering period 
(vv 42-43). In the midst of his extensive treatment of Moses, Stephen 
gives an anticipatory glance at his final application (vv 51-53) by 
quoting a well-known messianic passage, Deut 18:15: "This is that 
Moses who told the Israelites, 'God will send you a prophet hke me 
from your own people.' "^^ 

In Stephen's treatment of the Moses episode, then, we find a 
further development of the "God outside the land" motif as well as an 
amplification of the "rejected deliverer" motif. The Moses story, like 
the Abraham and Joseph stories, is selected and arranged to demon- 
strate a theological point for Stephen's auditors. Jesus of Nazareth, 
hke Joseph and Moses, is the rejected deliverer sent by God. It 
would be difficult indeed to find this theological concept to be at 
variance with the theology of Luke in his development of thought in 

On the Temple 

Although the Temple issue has been implicitly addressed from 
the outset in the "God outside the land" motif, it receives explicit 
development in this final section preceding the concluding remarks 
(7:44-50). The precursor of the Temple, the "Tabernacle of Testi- 
mony," is treated initially in this section, and in a genuinely positive 
light. The Tabernacle has been made in accord with a divine design 
and through a divine revelation to Moses (v 44). The Tabernacle 

^"in this connection note the polemical use of the following phrases in this section: 
"Our fathers refused to obey him"; and "they rejected him" (v 39). 

"j. Jeremias, "Mwi3ofi(;," TDNT 4 (1967) 868-69. Cf. Kirsopp Lake and H. J. 
Cadbury, The Acts of the Apostles, vol. 4 of The Beginnings of Christianity, eds. F. J. 
Foakes Jackson and Kirsopp Lake (reprint of the 1933 ed.; Grand Rapids: Baker, 
1965) 38, 78; Rackham, Acts, 104; Gloag, Acts, 1. 236-47; Bruce, The Acts of the 
Apostles: The Greek Text with Introduction and Notes (second ed.; Grand Rapids: 
Eerdmans, 1952) 172; Acts, 152. 


again suits Stephen's "God outside the land" concept, being a por- 
table structure not bound to one place. The Tabernacle, in fact, is 
carried into the land from outside. It continued to be functional in 
the land until the time of David. Then, in Stephen's discussion of the 
time of David, the Temple is finally introduced. Here, however, the 
tone of the discussion shifts dramatically: "But it was Solomon who 
built the house for him. However, the Most High does not live in 
houses made by men" (vv 47-48). Stephen forcefully emphasizes his 
point by a quotation of Isa 66:1-2, in which Yahweh stresses his 
omnipresence in contrast to the Temple. It is certainly to be observed 
that Stephen is minimizing the place of the Temple by such state- 
ments, particularly in contrast to the Tabernacle. God is not located 
only in Palestine, as Stephen has been stressing prior to this climactic 
assertion. Since this is the case, then the Temple cannot at all be 
perceived as the sole focal point for the worship of such a God.^^ 
With this, the "God outside the land" motif reaches its cHmax. 

Direct Application 

The direct application section is demarcated by a shift from the 
use of a third person narrative form to a second person confronta- 
tion. Stephen is no longer summarizing sacred history. He is now 
addressing his auditors directly in the light of his oration (vv 51-53). 
He accuses them of resisting the Holy Spirit (viz., God). Just as 
Joseph's brothers had rejected Joseph, their divinely designated 

The building of the Temple as a point of idolatry or apostasy and thus as 
contrary to the intentions of God is viewed by most recent interpreters as Stephen's 
point here. See particularly Marcel Simon, "Saint Stephen and the Jerusalem Temple," 
J EH 2 (1951) 127-42; L. W. Barnard, "Saint Stephen and early Alexandrian Chris- 
tianity," NTS 1 (1960-61) 31-45; Bihler, Stephanusgeschichte, 1A-15\ Bacon, "Stephen's 
Speech," 272; Longenecker, Acts, 346. Even Bruce adopts this position in his most 
recent work on the subject, emphasizing the unique assertion of Stephen as a Hellenist: 
"the idea that the Temple was a mistake from the beginning is unparalleled in the New 
Testament." He does try to divest Luke of such an opinion, however: "Stephen's 
reply is not the epitome of Luke's own position: Luke, in other parts of his work, 
reveals a much more positive attitude to the Temple than Stephen does." F. F. Bruce, 
Peter, Stephen, James, and John: Studies in Early Non- Pauline Christianity (Grand 
Rapids: Eerdmans, 1979) 53. It must be kept in mind, however, that OT theology 
places the impetus for the building of the Temple with Yahweh himself, who gave 
explicit instructions for its design, just as he did for the Tabernacle (1 Chr 28:12, 19). 
To suggest that Stephen viewed the construction of the Temple as an act of apostasy or 
idolatry is to suggest that he either misunderstood or misrepresented OT theology at 
this point. The older interpreters understood Stephen's words in a less stinging sense, 
holding that he spoke against the current view of the Temple and its use rather than its 
existence. Cf. Heather, "St. Stephen's Defence," 240: "The Temple, then, like the law, 
had a relative, not an absolute value." See also Ephraim C. Sheld, "Stephen's Defence 
before the Sanhedrin," BW 13 (January-June 1899) 98. 


deliverer, so they have rejected the Righteous One. Just as Israel 
rejected Moses, their divinely designated deliverer, so they have 
rejected, betrayed, and murdered the Savior. Thus the "rejected 
deliverer" motif is brought to a climax in this final section. 

In view of the foregoing, it can be seen that Stephen has met the 
accusations by utilizing the Torah selectively to defend his position 
on the nature of Israel's God as well as to show his hearers their guilt 
in rejecting God's Deliverer, Jesus. Stephen's defense becomes his 
means of offense. His accusers become his accused. 


Now that the theology of Stephen has been established in 
terms of its connection to the speech's thematic development and 
flow of thought, it remains to be seen where the problematic pas- 
sages lie in relation to this theological development. Of the five 
conflicts of a historical nature in the speech, two are contained in the 
Abraham section, and three in the Joseph section. The relation of the 
three explicit problems to the theology of the speech will now be 

The Call of Abraham 

The first phrase causing diflftculty is that which locates the initial 
revelation to Abraham (Gen 12:1-3) "in Mesopotamia, before he 
lived in Haran" (7:2). It has been seen that the point of the Abrahamic 
story in the Stephen speech is to initiate the concept that Yahweh's 
presence is not limited to the land on which the Temple lies. Certainly 
this point could have been made without the limiting phrase "before 
he lived in Haran." Yet the fact that this foundational revelation took 
place in Mesopotamia, "the land of the Chaldeans" (7:4), appears to 
have theological significance for Stephen. To him, it is not simply at 
Haran, the second stage of the patriarchal sojourn, where the divine 
oracle overtook Abraham. Rather, it was in the very seedbed of 
idolatry, the farthest point from the land, and at the very dawn of 
redemptive history that the divine oracle reached him.^^ J. Kilgallen, 
although not necessarily assuming a non-conflicting Genesis account, 
expresses this same kind of idea: 

"The numeric problem of 70/75 will not be treated under this heading as a 
theological alteration, since this issue has a textual problem at its base, nor will the 
patristic burial issue be treated in that it involves in its solution a textual-grammatical 
matter rather than a theological one. See Koivisto, "Stephen's Speech and Inerrancy," 
chaps. 4-5. 

^'Cf. Jacquier, Actes, 295. 


Theologically, we believe that Stephen chose this tradition (Gen. 15, 7) 
rather than that of 11, 31-12, 5 because he wanted to show his Hsteners 
that the call to a new land (to worship God) was at the very root of 
Abraham's earliest migration. God's call did not come after a first and 
secular movement of Abraham. Abraham's initial movement was in 
response to a divine mandate; conversely, any movement that tended 
toward the new land was inspired by God, not simply capitalized upon 
by God somewhere along the journey (as the Gen 12 tradition might 
indicate). The divine plan was primordial.^' 

The point is well taken. Stephen's reference to a Chaldean call is 
not a homiletical slip or inadvertent error brought about by the 
pressures of litigation. It is, on the contrary, a deliberate attempt to 
develop his theology by selecting materials from the biblical text.^° As 
such, the reference to the Abrahamic call in Ur is conscious and 
planned; it is an integral part of the theology that Stephen is present- 
ing and that Luke is integrating with his theological development in 
the book of Acts. 

The Death of Terah 

At first glance, the reference to Terah's death in Acts 7:4 seems 
to contain no theological significance, but is rather a simple allusion 
to an apparent historical fact in Genesis: the call of Abraham is 
recorded as occurring subsequent to Terah's death. Strack and Biller- 
beck suggest that the reason for the intrusion of this problematic 
phrase in Acts 7 is a simple reliance on an old rabbinic tradition that 
was created to absolve Abraham from the atrocious action of desert- 
ing his aged father.^' 

Kilgallen, Stephen's Speech, 42-43. See also Nils A. Dahl, "The Story of 
Abraham in Luke-Acts," Studies in Luke-Acts, ed. by Leander E. Keck and J. Louis 
Martyn (Nashville: Abingdon, 1966) 143: "Thus God's revelation is made the starting 
point of Abraham's migrations." 

^°E. Richard, though attributing the redactive work to the Lucan author, stresses 
that the changes in the Stephen speech are not accidental, but are related to the 
"overall purpose of the speech and its context." Acts 6:1-8:4: The Author's Method of 
Composition (SBL Dissertation Series, 41; Missoula: Scholars Press, 1978) 56. 

'' Herman L. Strack and Paul Billerbeck, Kommentar zum Neuen Testament (6 
vols.; Munich: C. H. Beck'sche, 1961) 2. 667-68. See particularly the rabbinic tradition 
reflected in Gen. Rab. 39:7: "Now what precedes this passage? And Terah died in 
Haran [which is followed by] Now the Lord said unto Abram: Get thee (lek leka). 
R. Isaac said: From the point of view of chronology a period of sixty-five years is still 
required. But first you may learn that the wicked, even during their lifetime, are called 
dead. For Abraham was afraid saying, 'Shall I go out and bring dishonor upon the 
Divine Name, as people will say, "he left his father in his old age and departed"?' 
Therefore the Holy One, blessed be He, reassured him: 'I exempt thee (leka) from the 


This suggestion may be too simple, however. In view of the 
obvious apologetic activity of Stephen, the phrase may well have been 
introduced for a distinct theological purpose. It is certainly possible 
that the reason for this inclusion is the relationship between Jewish 
tradition surrounding Terah and a subsidiary "exodus" motif that 
arises in the speech. 

The Jewish tradition regarding Terah is exempUfied in Gen. Rab. 
38:13, where Terah is referred to as a manufacturer of idols, and it is 
held that the death of his son Haran was due to Terah's practice. ^^ 
The implication in the tradition is that, even though Abraham left Ur 
at the divine call, he brought with him an idolatrous father — and 
thereby a potential return to Chaldean idolatry. 

The text of Acts 7 implies, moreover, that the stay in Haran was 
itself divinely directed." In this way Stephen stresses that Abraham 
did not enter the land of promise until his idolatrous father was dead 
and hence unable to contaminate his pure devotion to Yahweh. For 
Stephen, the death of Terah may thus mark Abraham's final break 
with his past.^"* 

This emphasis on Abraham's break with his father is signifi- 
cant in view of a subsidiary "exodus" motif that may be seen in 
the Stephen speech. In the Joseph section (vv9-16), Joseph (like 
Abraham) is separated from his family. The text indicates, however, 
that God was with Joseph as opposed to the "fathers." In the Moses 
section, it was "our fathers" who refused to obey Moses and turned 

duty of honouring thy parents, though I exempt no one else from this duty. Moreover, 
I will record his death before thy departure.' Hence, 'And Terah died in Haran' is 
stated first, and then. Now the Lord said unto Abram, etc." 

"The tradition probably has its roots in the canonical statement of Josh 24:2: 
"Long ago your forefathers, including Terah the father of Abraham and Nahor, lived 
beyond the River and worshiped other gods." A similar reflection of the tradition 
stemming from this may be found in Jub. 12:1-6, where Abram is said to have 
confronted his father on the uselessness of idolatry before leaving Ur, and where his 
brother Haran is to have died trying to save his idols from a conflagration set by 
Abram for the purpose of destroying them. 

"in 7:3 the words "Go into the land I will show you" are immediately followed by 
"then he settled in Haran." This implies that the otherwise inexplicable stopover in 
Haran was done at Yahweh's command. Abraham may well have waited there for the 
idolatrous tendencies in his own family to be resolved before entering the land of 

^"This is contrary to the opinion of Vawter. He holds that the priestly author of 
Genesis 11-12 intended to indicate that Terah was very much alive during the first 
years of Abram in Canaan, thus making the separation of the two ways all the more 
real since both leaving and staying would have been live options for Abraham (Bruce 
Vawter, On Genesis: A New Reading [Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1977], 173-74). 
Vawter does not consider the possibility, however, that the listing of Terah's sons may 
have been theological in order rather than chronological. 


their hearts back to Egypt (v 39). The patriarchal distinction is 
brought to a pointed conclusion with the final words of Stephen: 
"You stiff-necked people, with uncircumcised hearts and ears! You 
are just Uke your fathers: You always resist the Holy Spirit!" (v 51). 

These internal factors suggest that the reference to the death of 
Terah may begin a foil against which the disobedience of Stephen's 
own contemporaries is brought into sharp relief. Abraham broke with 
his disobedient father at his death; Stephen's contemporaries had not 
yet broken with their disobedient and long-dead fathers. 

This "error" thus shows marks of a calculated insertion into the 
narrative for theological purposes as well. Like the call of Abraham 
in Stephen's speech, the problem cannot simply be removed without 
violating the theology which Stephen is building, and which Luke 

The Abrahamic Purchase 

Both a theological point and an exegetical difficulty are involved 
in Stephen's inclusion of an otherwise unknown acquisition by 
Abraham of land at Shechem. Shechem certainly held theological 
significance in the Abrahamic narrative of the OT, for it was there 
that Abraham first exhibited his relationship to the land of promise 
by building an altar to Yahweh.^^ A reference to an Abrahamic tomb 
purchase, however, would have most likely brought to the minds of 
Stephen's Usteners the sacred and revered tomb at Hebron. Stephen 
asserts that Abraham purchased a tomb not at revered Hebron, but 
at despised Shechem. 

Certainly this reference to what was Samaritan territory in 
Stephen's day, particularly in the context of the Temple and worship 
motifs in his speech, would have had significant theological over- 
tones,^^ especially since the Samaritans were for all practical purposes 
considered outside the land.^^ It is thus not without significance that 

"Martin H. Scharlemann, Stephen: A Singular Saint {AnBib 34; Rome: Biblical 
Institute Press, 1968) 38. 

'^Cf. E. F. Harrison: "Stephen's mention of Shechem was probably not casual but 
deliberate. ... A rigid Jew might want to forget the patriarchal contacts with Shechem, 
but Stephen would not permit that. To mention Shechem was almost the equivalent of 
calHng attention to Samaria" {Acts, 115-16). See also Bacon, "Stephen's Speech," 230. 
For a contrary opinion, see Loisy, Actes, 327. Loisy's objection to a polemic here, 
however, assumes that the only Abrahamic tomb purchase known to the Jews was the 
Hittite transaction of Genesis 23. With the abundance of extrabiblical accounts and 
traditions of Abraham circulating in the first century, this may be too great an 

"Cf. Gerhard Schneider ("Stephanus, die Hellenisten, und Samaria," in Les Actes 
des Apotres: Tradition, Redaction, Theologie, ed. by J. Kremer [Louvain: Paris 
Gemloux, 1979] 229). Note particularly the "God is spirit" concept communicated to 


Luke follows this speech with a narrative of the evangelization of that 
same Samaritan territory (Acts 8:4-25). In view of the conscious 
theological selection of the term "Shechem" on Stephen's part, and 
the significant Lucan use of this element in his narrative, one must 
again conclude that the use of this "error" is a conscious one loaded 
with theological import/^ 


The theological function of the "errors" within the development 
of Acts 7 indicates that at least three of the divergences are inten- 
tional assertions that produce in their contexts a theological thrust 
that would be absent without them. And though a systematic recon- 
ciliation between Stephen's recounting of history and the OT record 
itself has not been attempted in this study, such an approach must 
reckon with the conclusion drawn here: that the divergences found in 
Stephen's speech and recorded by Luke are deliberate. Hence, there is 
a renewed need to reconcile Stephen's comments on OT history with 
the OT record. Allowing Stephen to have been "in error" simply will 
not do if a sound view of the trustworthiness of Scripture is to be 

the Samaritans by our Lord (John 4:24). The possible connection between the Johan- 
nine theology thus represented and the Hellenistic concept represented by Stephen is 
shown by Oscar Cullmann, "A New Approach to the Interpretation of the Fourth 
Gospel," Parts I and II, £771 (1959) 8-12; 39-43. 

^^This may explain why Shechem has a part in the theological focus, but it does 
not explain why Abraham was the one who needed to have made the purchase, nor 
why a tomb purchase is significant in the narrative at all. The role of a tomb in OT 
theology, however, may relate here to the concept of promise. Abraham's purchase of a 
tomb plot in Hebron, for example, was evidence of his settling down in the land of 
promise. In the same way the patriarchal burials in Shechem, not mentioned by 
Stephen, are further examples of fulfillment in the land of promise. This fits Stephen's 
theology quite well in that it is the rejected brother who ensures burial of the rejectors 
in the land of promise. The mention of Abraham as the purchaser forms a nice literary 
inclusion: "Abraham began this history, receiving the promise of the land, at v. 16, 
before the new generation of Exodus and the Pharaoh 'who knew not Joseph' appear. 
We see a literary, redactional nicety which gives a partial fulfillment to what God had 
promised Israel in the person of Abraham which in turn becomes an encouragement to 
hope for the future that some day all the land will pass into total possession of 
Abraham's descendants" (Kilgallen, Stephen's Speech, 62). 

Grace Theological Journal 8.1(1 987) 1 1 5- 1 29 


James D. Price 

Several basic principles of NT textual criticism have been em- 
ployed in designing a computer program that groups manuscripts 
into probable genealogical relationships, constructs a resulting gene- 
alogical tree diagram, and identifies the statistically most likely 
reading of a text. The program has been initially applied to the books 
of Philippians, 1 Timothy, and Jude using the variants listed in 
UBSGNT^. The results indicate that the program has potential as an 
aid to NT textual criticism. 


THE use of computers in biblical studies is viewed by many with 
considerable skepticism. Computer studies in literary criticism 
have led some scholars to reject Pauline authorship of certain epistles,' 
and others to reject the traditional authorship of portions of some OT 
books. ^ These studies are based on debatable presuppositions and 
methodology, the criticism of which is beyond the scope of this work. 
Such use of computers to provide mathematical proof or disproof of 
authorship led Bonifatius Fischer to question whether this was "char- 
latanry or scholarship."^ 

However, after discussing many limitations of the use of com- 
puters in biblical studies, Fischer wrote favorably of their use in the 
field of textual criticism: 

A. Q. Morton and J. McLeman, Christianity and the Computer (London: Hodder 
and Stoughton, 1964); and Paul, the Man and the Myth (New York: Harper and Row, 
1966); for further examples see J. R. Moore, "Computer Analysis and the Pauhne 
Corpus," BSac 130 (1973) 41-49. 

^Y. T. Radday and D. Wickmann, "Unity of Zechariah Examined in the Light of 
Statistical Linguistics," ZAW%1 (1975) 30-55. 

^B. Fischer, "The Use of Computers in New Testament Studies, with Special 
Reference to Textual Criticism," JTS 21 (1970) 297-308. 


After so much pessimism we come at last to a field where the 
computer is of great importance to the student of the New Testament, 
indeed where it opens up a new dimension and makes possible what 
hitherto the scholar had not even dared to dream of: that is, in textual 


Fischer further discussed the importance of proper theory and 
methodology in creating a computer program as an aid for textual 
criticism, and the vanity of expecting a computer to reconstruct the 
exact history of a text and its manuscript copies. However, he con- 
cluded that the manuscript relationships that could be discovered 
through the use of a computer would be of great value to the textual 
critic in reconstructing the transmissional history of a text. He visual- 
ized two stages in the process — a mathematical stage and an evalua- 
tive stage: 

Two stages must be distinguished. In the first the relations between 
the manuscripts and the texts are defined on the basis of all their 
readings, irrespective of whether these readings are true or false: this 
stage is a purely mathematical process which can be done by a 
computer — indeed in so complicated a case as the New Testament it 
should be done by a computer. Then follows the second stage, the 
proper task of the textual critic, the judgment of the truth or falsity of 
the readings, the recension of the original text and perhaps also of its 
more important subsequent forms, and the reconstruction of the his- 
tory of its transmission. This is a task that only a man can perform: it 
is beyond the capacities of a computer. But it rests on the firm basis 
that the computer supplies.^ 


Several studies have been made of various theories that might be 
suitable for computer application to NT textual criticism. G. P. Zarri 
studied the stemmata codicum theories of Don H. Quentin.^ After 
expressing skepticism about expecting quick solutions, he concluded 
that Quentin's theories may help to clear up some difficult problems. 

John G. Griffith experimented with the method of R. R. Sokal, 
known as numerical taxonomy,^ which Sokal used in arranging bio- 
logical classes into family trees. Griffith adapted the methodology to 

'Ibid., 304. 

'Ibid., 306. 

*G. P. Zarri, "Algorithms, Stemmata Codicum and the Theories of Don H. 
Quentin," in The Computer and Literary Studies (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University, 
1973) 225-37. 

'j. G. Griffith, "Numerical Taxonomy and Some Primary Manuscripts of the 
Gospels," JTS 20 (1969) 389-406. 

price: a computer aid for textual criticism 1 17 

textual criticism and experienced some success in classifying a number 
of the biblical manuscripts into near-neighbor clusters that approxi- 
mate family tree relations. He concluded that this method achieved "a 
sorting of material which proves refractory to the conventional logic 
of the stemma. It can be tested quantitatively in a way that the 
stemma cannot, and does not beg any questions about the merits of 
the material being handled."^ 

W. Ott experimented with a matrix containing percentages of 
agreement among the manuscripts.^ The percentage of agreement was 
a test of close relationship — the closer the agreement, the closer the 
relationship. The method succeeded in revealing some group relation- 
ships among manuscripts. 

Extensive research has been conducted at the Claremont Gradu- 
ate School to develop a method for classifying Greek manuscripts 
into genealogical groups. This method, known as the Claremont 
Profile Method, makes use of a selected set of readings that define a 
unique profile for each of several manuscript groups. Each manu- 
script is then classified into one of these groups by means of its level 
of agreement with the profile of the group. This sampling method is 
being used to prepare a new comprehensive apparatus for the NT. 
Most of the work has been done manually, but recently W. L. 
Richards used a computer to assist the classification of manuscripts 
for the Johannine epistles. ^° 

Kurt Aland and his associates at the Miinster Institute have 
developed the Miinster Fragment Identification Program which em- 
ploys a computer to piece together papyrus fragments, to collate the 
readings of many manuscripts,^' and to define manuscript groups and 
large manuscript complexes.'^ 

"Ibid., 405. 

'W. Ott, "Computer Applications in Textual Criticism," in The Computer and 
Literary Studies {Edinh\xx%\v: Edinburgh University, 1973), 199-223. 

'°W. L. Richards, The Classification of the Greek Manuscripts of the Johannine 
Epistles (SBLDS 35; Missoula, MT: Scholars Press, 1977); E. J. Epp, "The Claremont 
Profile-Method for Grouping New Testament Minuscule Manuscripts," in Studies in 
the History and Text of the New Testament, eds. B. L. Daniels and M. J. Suggs, vol. 
29 of Studies and Documents (Salt Lake City: University of Utah, 1967) 27-38; E. C. 
Colwell et al., "The International Greek New Testament Project: A Status Report," 
JBL 87 (1968) 187-97; P. McReynolds, "The Value and Limitations of the Claremont 
Profile Method," in Society of Biblical Literature, Book of Seminar Papers (Sept. 
1972) 1.1-7; F. Wisse, The Profile Method for the Classification and Evaluation of 
Manuscript Evidence, as Applied to the Continuous Greek Text of the Gospel of Luke 
(Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1982); W. L. Richards, "A Critique of a New Testament 
Text-Critical Methodology— The Claremont Profile Method," JBL 96 (1977) 555-56. 

"E. J. Epp, "A Continuing Interlude in New Testament Textual Criticism," HTR 
73 (1980) 133-34. 

''Ibid., 142. 


Although these methods have mapped general genealogical rela- 
tionships among manuscripts, none has succeeded in producing spe- 
cific genealogical tree diagrams of manuscript history. It is widely 
held that the task is too complex, the manuscripts are of mixed 
parentage, and the genealogical history of biblical texts is beyond 


For several years I have experimented with computer techniques 
for reconstructing the genealogical history of a NT text by using the 
variant readings and dates of the extant manuscripts. The research 
has resulted in a computer program that groups manuscripts into 
probable genealogical relationships, constructs a resulting genealogical 
tree diagram of an approximate textual history, and identifies the 
most Ukely readings of the original text based upon this reconstruc- 
tion. For numerous test problems, the program has yielded results 
similar to those that have been obtained through conventional means. 
The problems approximate the complexity and difficulty of the 
biblical text. The program provides good solutions when the textual 
evidence is statistically adequate; it provides a good approximation 
when the evidence is sparse. If the manuscript shows signs of mixed 
parentage, it indicates so; if they appear to have no genealogical 
relationships, it indicates so; and if they exhibit the relationships 
defined by Zane Hodges's textual model,'^ it indicates so. 

The program is designed as a research aid for the textual scholar. 
At key points in the computing process, the program displays the 
results of its decisions, the statistical validity of the decisions, the 
source of the data, and the specific rules employed to reach the 
decision. In case the decision is statistically weak, or otherwise ques- 
tionable, the scholar may interact with the program to improve its 
performance by human insight. Experience has revealed that this 
interaction is needed, but not often. As Fischer predicted, the results 
of the computer analysis must be evaluated, edited, and optimized; 
but the final result is indeed a probable reconstruction of the gene- 
alogical history of the text. 

Hodges's textual model is understood to view all manuscripts as primary wit- 
nesses to the text of the original autograph, and to view them as exhibiting essentially 
no genealogical relationships among themselves. That is, at any place in the text where 
a variant reading occurs, the majority of manuscripts contain the reading of the 
autograph, and the non-original readings are genealogically random (see Z. C. Hodges, 
"Modern Textual Criticism and the Majority Text: A Response," y^ETS 21 [1978] 143- 
56). However, in his later work Hodges acknowledges the existence and importance of 
genealogical relationships and advocates the necessity of studying the genealogical 
history of every book in the NT (see Z. C. Hodges and A. L. Farstad, The Greek New 
Testament According to the Majority Text [Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982]). 

price: a computer aid for textual criticism 1 19 


As a result of my experimental research, several basic principles 
have been developed for reconstructing the genealogical history of a 
text. Most of the principles are self-evident upon examination. 

Each Book Is Independent 

Because the early history of each biblical book was different, 
each book should be studied independently. Failure to do this could 
result in unnecessary confusion. 

Each Manuscript Is a Copy or a Recension 

Each manuscript is a copy of its exemplar (usually containing all 
of the variants of the exemplar) or a recension. Recensions are 
determined by evidence of two or more parents. Therefore, a manu- 
script bears witness to a set of variants, not simply to individual 
variants. Viewing the data of the manuscripts as sets of variants 
reduces confusion. The manuscripts are regarded as having a type of 
genetic profile that bears witness to its genealogical descent. This 
agrees in principle with the Claremont view, and disagrees with Aland 
who seems to regard each variant as having an independent gene- 
alogical history. 

Fathers and Versions Used 

The quotations of a church father are evidence for the Greek text 
used by him. Where the evidence is sufficiently complete, the set of 
variants supported by a church father may be treated as a Greek 
manuscript.'" The same is true for the ancient versions. It may be 
assumed that each version was translated from a single Greek manu- 
script containing the variants supported by the version. The scholar 
must take this into account when interacting with the decisions of the 
program, recognizing the uncertainties associated with patristic quota- 
tions and translations. 

Primary Witness Takes Priority 

A manuscript bears primary witness to the readings of its imme- 
diate parent exemplar, and secondary witness to more remote ances- 
tors and relatives. The computing procedure should make use of 
primary witnesses throughout, and should use the primary witness of 
each manuscript to define its place in the genealogical tree. 

'"it is recognized that some church fathers quoted from more than one ancient 
text. Although the procedure is compHcated, the program usually can differentiate 
multiple ancient texts of this kind. 


Similarity Defines Siblings 

A small group of manuscripts more like one another than those 
outside the group may be assumed to be immediate sibling descen- 
dants of a common parent exemplar. Such a group exhibits a high 
percentage of agreement and has one or more readings unique to 
itself. Siblings bear primary witness to the readings of their parent 
exemplar and may be used to identify the parent. A large set of 
manuscripts that are genealogical descendants of a common original 
text may be expected to have numerous small groups of siblings (or 
near siblings) of this type. When a set of manuscripts fails to exhibit 
this condition, the manuscripts are of hopelessly mixed parentage or 
not genealogically related. 

How Exemplars Are Identified 

Sibling descendants bear primary witness to the readings of their 
immediate parent exemplar. Within a sibling group, majority vote 
usually identifies the parent readings. When majority vote fails for a 
given variant, then near relatives — such as uncles or cousins'^ — 
usually share the parent reading and may resolve the uncertainty. 
When this fails, any unique reading may be eliminated; it will lack 
confirmation by any witness outside the group. When all these fail to 
determine the most likely reading, the scholar may resolve the uncer- 
tainty by internal evidence. In any case, the scholar may overrule the 
computer's decision on the basis of evidence not available to the 

Exemplars More Authoritative 

Once a parent exemplar is identified it replaces the witness of its 
descendants, being the authority that accounts for their existence. If 
an exemplar so identified is extant, it is allowed to bear further 
witness to its own immediate parent. If the exemplar so identified is 
not extant, the program creates the exemplar and allows it to bear 
witness in place of its descendants; its existence is justified by the 
witness of its descendants, although some uncertainty may be intro- 
duced for readings with weak support. 

Iteration Required 

An ordered iteration of these principles produces a tree diagram 
of the genealogical relationships among the manuscripts traced back 

'^A near relative is a manuscript outside the sibling group, but more like the group 
than any other manuscript in the data base. 

price: a computer aid for textual criticism 121 

to one common ancestor. The resultant tree diagram represents an 
approximation of the genealogical history of the text. The tree dia- 
gram must be studied, optimized, and interpreted by textual scholars. 
The final result is a reconstruction of the history of the text and a list 
of the most likely readings of the autograph, together with the statis- 
tical probability for each reading. 

initial results 

To date, the program has been applied to three small books of 
the NT,'^ making use of the textual data available in the UBSGNT^}'' 
Figures 1, 2, and 3 are slightly simphfied diagrams of the preliminary 
reconstruction of the textual history of the books. '^ The results have 
been what would be expected, indicating the validity of the program's 

Simple Descent Confirmed 

Most manuscripts were found to exhibit simple descent from 
only one parent exemplar. A few were found to descend from two 
parents, a still smaller number from three or more; few if any were of 
hopelessly mixed parentage. Table 1 summarizes the manuscript 
parentage for the three books. Genealogical descent was found to 
be consistent with historic chronology — late manuscripts exhibited 
descent from earlier ones (occasionally a late manuscript exhibited 
descent from a very early one);^^ early manuscripts fit into the early 
branches of the tree diagram, and late manuscripts fit into late 
branches. Although the computer program makes use of the date of 
the manuscripts, it has no logical mechanism that predetermines 
chronological consistency in the genealogical tree diagram. This 
chronological consistency would not be expected if the genealogical 
groupings found by the computer had no correspondence with the 

'^Philippians, 1 Timothy, and Jude. 

"The UBS text was selected because it lists more manuscripts in its apparatus than 
others. This advantage was offset somewhat by the smaller number of variants. Better 
results are expected from a more complete set of data. 

'*A complete textual commentary on these books based on the computer analysis 
of the data in the UBSGNT v/il\ be produced at a later date. 

"For example in Philippians, mss 81 and 1241 appear to descend from an early 
form of the Alexandrian text; group 330, 451, 1962, 2127, and 2492 appears to descend 
from another early form of the Alexandrian text; group D'^, 326, and 1877 appears to 
descend from an early form of the Antiochan text; and MS ^ appears to descend from 
an early form of the Western text. In 1 Timothy, group 81, 1739, and 1881 appears to 
descend from an early form of the Alexandrian text; and group *P, 104, 330, 451, 1877, 
and 2492 appears to descend from an early form of the Antiochan text. In Jude, group 
A, 81, and 1739 appears to descend from a very early form of the Alexandrian text. 



price: a computer aid for textual criticism 123 



price: a computer aid for textual criticism 


Summary of Parentage* 



; Parent 

2 Parents 

3 or More 



51 MSS 

12 MSS 

7 MSS 

70 MSS 

1 Timothy 

61 MSS 

34 MSS 

4 MSS 
15 MSS 

1 MSS 


66 MSS 
49 MSS 


146 MSS 

31 MSS 

8 MSS 

185 MSS 

% of total 





^Data include only extant mss, not created exemplars. 

Summary of Text Degradation* 


of variants 

introduced by 

a MS 














1 Timothy 




















% of total 







*Data include extant mss and created exemplars. 

history of the text. If the genealogical groupings were unrelated to 
history, one would expect the distribution of the manuscripts in the 
genealogical tree to be chronologically random rather than ordered. 
Therefore, the existence of chronological consistency in the gene- 
alogical tree diagrams produced by the computer suggests the validity 
of the program's logic. 

Simple Degradation Confirmed 

Most variants were found to be introduced simply, that is, only 
once, and only one or two at a time. When a variant appeared again 
in another branch it was generally due to multiple parentage. When 
several variants arose in the same manuscript, it was usually due to a 
recension, an infrequent occurrence. Table 2 summarizes the text 
degradation as indicated by the number of variants introduced by the 
manuscripts. (A variant is understood here to mean a reading differ- 
ing from that of the immediate parent exemplar.) 


Text-types Confirmed 

The reconstructed genealogical history confirmed four basic 
ancient text-types more like one another than Uke their own remote 
descendants: the Alexandrian,^" the Western,^' the Antiochan,^^ and a 
fourth that may correspond with the Caesarean.^^ Nothing in the logic 
of the program could have predetermined this reconstruction. Each 
text-type exhibits an early form with several subsequent branches.^'* 
The Antiochan text exhibits an early form that is related to the Syriac 
(though not in Jude) with several subsequent branches. The Byzan- 
tine text is located in one of the later branches. Nothing in the logic 
of the program could have predetermined this late secondary descent 
of the Byzantine text. 

Ancient Versions 

The ancient versions exhibit genealogical descent from Greek 
texts usually current in the locality of the version. The Vulgate was 
consistently from an early form of the Western text. There were 
several independent Old Latin versions, usually made from early 
forms of the Western text. A few Old Latin versions were non- 
Western; if* was consistently Caesarean; it^'^ was Caesarean in 
1 Timothy; and it^ was Alexandrian in Jude. The Armenian version 
was consistently Caesarean. The Coptic and Ethiopic versions were 
consistently Alexandrian, except that the Boharic Coptic version was 
Western in Jude. On the other hand, the Syriac version appears to be 
Caesarean in Philippians, Antiochan in 1 Timothy, and Alexandrian 
in Jude. The Gothic version is Caesarean in 1 Timothy and Western 
in Philippians. 

The Church Fathers 

Not many church fathers offered sufficient evidence to identify 
their underlying Greek texts. Of those whose texts could be identified, 

^°The Alexandrian text-type consistently included X*, S^ A, B, (C*), C^, 81, 
Origen, Clement, Coptic (Sa), and Ethiopic. Ms X*^ was usually close to the earliest 

^'The Western text-type consistently included the Vg, it^ it«*em, it<iiv^ itf^ itg^ it^^ and 
it^. A few Greek mss were classified in Western branches, but not consistently. The Vg 
was usually close to the earhest form. 

"The Antiochan text-type consistently included D^ K, 181, 629, 1877, 1984, 1985, 
Byz, Lect, Theodoret, and John of Damascus. D"^ and 181 were usually close to the 
early form of the Byzantine branch, whereas witnesses to the earliest form varied from 
book to book. 

^^The Caesarean text-type consistently included the Armenian, if^, and it^; other 
witnesses varied from book to book. 

^''The Western text appears to have mixed parentage for 1 Timothy. 

price: a computer aid for textual criticism 127 


Number of Statistically Probable Readings 

Philippians 1 Timothy Jude Total 

No. of variants 






14 (87.5%) 

10 (90.9%) 


30 (90.9%) 




5 (83.3%) 

26 (78.8%) 




5 (83.3%) 

26 (78.8%) 



10 (90.9%) 

4 (66.6%) 


several consistently agreed with a local text, and some differed from 
book to book. Origen and Clement were consistently Alexandrian; 
Theodoret and John of Damascus were consistently Antiochan. 
Several had sufficient data to be used for only one of the three books 
studied. But it appears that the church fathers usually made use of a 
form of the text current in their locality. 

Evidence of Recensions 

If it is assumed that the earliest form of each ancient text-type 
was the result of a local recension, then this study suggests that the 
recensions were fairly successful in standardizing the text in each 
area. For the books covered in this study, the Alexandrian text-type 
is the most consistent, with statistically probable readings for 100% of 
the variants in Jude, 90.9% in 1 Timothy, and 87.5% in Philippians 
(for an overall average of 90.9%). The Antiochan text-type for the 
three books yielded statistically probable readings for 81.8% of the 
variants, whereas the percentage for the Western and Caesarean text- 
types was 78.8% (see table 3). 

In addition, the study suggests that a few subsequent recensions 
were made, some of more consequence than others. One interesting 
occurrence of recensions appears to be associated with the rise of the 
versions. There seems to have been a recension made in preparation 
for the translation of some of the versions. For example, in Philip- 
pians and 1 Timothy, the Ethiopic and Coptic versions appear to 
have been made from recent recensions. ^^ In Philippians, the Gothic 

^'in 1 Timothy, the Coptic and Ethiopic were made from a mild recension of the 
earliest form of the Alexandrian text of which N*^ was a direct descendant. In Philip- 
pians, the Ethiopic and Boharic Coptic were made from texts close to the one used by 
Eusebius, of which ms 33 is a late copy. In fact, MS B^ appears to be a major recension 
of the same text, with six variants introduced by mixed parentage; B^ evidently was the 
recension made for translating the Sahidic Coptic, with B* as a copy of B^, differing in 
only one reading. This does not seem to be the case in other of the Pauhne epistles. 


version appears to have been made from a recension known to 

In Philippians and 1 Timothy, the Old Latin version its appears 
to be translated from a recension; ms G^ is near the text of this 
recension in Philippians^^ and related to it in a more complex way in 
1 Timothy. A similar recensional background must account for the 
Old Latin if^ and its its copy.^^ 

In all three books, the Armenian version, although clearly a 
descendant of the Caesarean text, exhibits evidence of being trans- 
lated from a recension. Something similar must be true for the text 
behind the.Syriac versions. In Philippians, the text is derived from 
the Caesarean; in 1 Timothy it is derived from the early Antiochan; 
and in Jude it is derived from the Alexandrian. 

Recovering the Original Text 

If it can be assumed that the earliest form of each ancient text- 
type was an independent witness to the original text, then their 
mutual agreement would provide convincing identification of original 
readings. ^^ For each of the three books studied, the procedure recon- 
structed four ancient text-types more like one another than like their 
own remote descendants. For the thirty-three readings identified by 
the program to be most probably original in the three books studied, 
sixteen readings (48.5%) had the full support of all four ancient text- 
types; seven readings (21.2%) had the support of three against one; 
six readings (18.2%) had the support of two ancient text-types against 
one each supporting different readings; only four (12.1%) had the 
support of two ancient text-types against two supporting another. 
That is, 87.9% of the readings had good statistical support; only 
12.1% had uncertainties that statistical analysis could not resolve. 

The readings of the reconstructed original text frequently were 
those selected by the editors of UBSGNT^; but a number of them 

^^The exemplar for the Gothic version was a descendant of an early form of the 
Western text, but it was of mixed parentage and introduced five variants. The text of 
Chrysostom differed from this recension in only two readings. 

^'Ms C^ is a descendant of an early form of the Western text; but it was of mixed 
parentage and introduced seven variants; the text of it^ differs from G*^ in only three 
readings, ms G* is a copy of G'=. 

^*In 1 Timothy ms D appears to be a recension bringing together two early forms 
of the Caesarean text; D seems to be the Greek text from which it<* was translated. 
However, D does not appear to be the text of it<^ in Philippians, but rather the early 
form of the Caesarean text itself was the text of it''. 

^'This conclusion is limited by the uncertainties associated with reconstructing the 
text-types. Although the logic of the program employs primary witnesses and chooses 
readings with the greatest statistical probability, some degree of uncertainty accumu- 
lates in the reconstruction process. More needs to be known about how uncertainties 

price: a computer aid for textual criticism 129 

were different. ^° More study and experience with the program are 
needed before its use may produce decisions more reHable than 


This computer program has provided some thought-provoking 
observations. Contrary to current opinion, it appears that the manu- 
scripts of the Greek NT may really have simple genealogical relation- 
ships, and that the text may have experienced simple degradation. It 
appears that some reconstruction may be made of an approximate 
transmissional history of the text, using the computer program as a 
research tool in the hands of a textual scholar. 

The present study was made using a limited number of manu- 
scripts^^ and a limited number of variants." However, the manuscripts 
generally are regarded as the best representatives of the larger corpus. ^"^ 
With such a good representative sample to work with, it is reasonable 
to expect that the larger corpus of data will exhibit similar character- 
istics without much greater complexity. A recent computer study of 
the text of Romans with Richard Young has been completed. The 
data consists of 64 manuscripts and 91 variants. The larger number of 
variants made the solution a little more complex, but the results and 
conclusions were essentially the same.^^ This provides confidence that 
the results are not accounted for merely on the basis of overly simple 
problems. The computer is capable of handling much larger problems. 
It is expected that further study and research with the computer 
program will provide valuable insight into the history and text of the 
Greek NT. 

^°For Jude, five out of six readings were in agreement with the critical editors; for 
Philippians it was eight out of sixteen; and for 1 Timothy, six out of eleven. 

^'See my forthcoming article, "A Textual Commentary on the Book of Philippians." 

^^Philippians, seventy mss; 1 Timothy, sixty-six Mss; Jude, forty-nine mss. 

"Philippians, sixteen variants; I Timothy, eleven variants; Jude, six variants. 

^""Some scholars doubt that the manuscripts in the UBSGNT^ represent a good 
sample of the textual history. Our own study supports that conclusion for the book of 

'^A textual commentary on Romans based on this study will be produced at a 
later date. 

Grace TheologicalJournal SA (1987) 131-140 


Merland Ray MillerI 

By examining the relationship of literary form to theological 
argument in the book of Hebrews, seven theological themes occurring 
throughout Hebrews are elucidated, each of which is especially preva- 
lent in 11:1-12:2. This smaller section emerges as a theological micro- 
cosm of the book as a whole. Upon close inspection, these seven 
themes can be seen to function as a forceful appeal for the readers not 
to abandon the New Covenant community for the Old, but rather to 
endure in faith. The faith that brings such endurance is that which 
focuses on Jesus, the Pioneer and Perfecter of faith, who himself has 
endured the cross and has sat down at the right hand of God the 


THE task of interpreting a passage of Scripture is a delicate balanc- 
ing act. For the exegete who is sensitive to the literary forms of 
biblical literature and intent on finding the theological argument of a 
passage, there must be a third concern, that of demonstrating how the 
two interact. In the context of examining the relationship of literary 
form to theological argument in Hebrews,' seven theological themes 
were discovered. These themes, which occur throughout Hebrews 
(but with greater frequency in Heb 11:1-12:2), are (1) faith, (2) per- 
fection, (3) promise, (4) endurance, (5) superiority, (6) witness, and 
(7) inheritance. The meanings of the Greek word groups associated 
with these themes are discussed briefly below. The emphasis, how- 
ever, is on their development within Hebrews as a whole, and within 
the concluding exhortation (10:19-12:29) in particular. 

'The literary form of Heb 1 1:1-12:2 has been defined in chap. 1 of my unpublished 
dissertation, "The Theological Argument of Hebrews 1 1 in Light of Its Literary Form" 
(St. Louis: Concordia Seminary, 1984) and in the article "What Is the Literary Form of 
Hebrews 11?", forthcoming in JETS. My thesis is that Heb 11:1-12:2 is an encomium 
to Jesus. 


The concept of 'faith' is not only central to Heb 11:1-12:2 (27x) 
and to the book of Hebrews as a whole (41 x), but to the entire scope 
of biblical revelation. Therefore it is imperative to grasp the scriptural 
meaning of faith in order to understand how Hebrews employs it. 

In extra-biblical Greek, this concept generally signifies "to trust, 
rely on." With a personal object it can acquire the nuance "to obey."^ 

In the LXX, the root Tiiax- almost exclusively translates the root 
px.^ The best examples are found in Gen 15:6 and Hab 2:4. The 
Hebrew root occurs often in the Hiphil stem where, according to 
Weiser, it means "to declare God ]9X3," "to say Amen to God."" Used 
in this sense, the word denotes a response to the consistency of God. 

The importance of the OT for the writers of the NT leads to 
frequent use of this concept. The new meanings given to the concept 
in the NT are: acceptance of preaching (1 Thess 1:8-9); content of 
faith (Rom 10:9); personal relation to Christ (Gal 2:20); and the 
message itself (Gal 1:23). These meanings of faith are sufficiently 
differentiated from the OT meanings to warrant their being taken as 
"Christian" usages of the term.^ 

In the book of Hebrews, the concept max-, like so many theo- 
logical concepts in the book, serves the hortatory purpose of the 
author. It is closely related to the word of God (4:2, 3) and the 
promise of God (6:12; 10:23; 11:11). It is the major focus around 
which the OT history is presented, first with the unbelief of the desert 
generation (3:7-4:1 1), and later with the faith of the elders (chap. 1 1). 

This hortatory use of faith has misled some into taking Tiiaxii; in 
Hebrews 11 to mean exhortation. The concept has been identified 
with obedience (Bultmann, Eichler^), hope (Huxhold^) and endurance 
(Graesser^; the word is i)7ro|aovfi, also translated "steadfastness" or 

The underlying problem with these hortatory definitions is that 
faith is conceived of as a virtue or human power. That Graesser sees 

^Rudolf Bultmann and Artur Weiser, "ttioteuo)," etc., TDNT6 (1968) 176-79. 

^Edwin Hatch and Henry A. Redpath, A Concordance to the Septuagint and the 
other Greek Versions of the Old Testament (Including the Apocryphal Books) (2 vols.; 
Graz-Austria: Academische Druck-U. Verlagsanstalt, 1954), 2. 1137-38. 

"Bultmann, "jtioTiq," 187. 

'Ibid., 205-14. 

^Johannes Eichler, "Inheritance, Lot, Portion, KX,fipo(;," NIDNTT2 (1976) 301. 

'H. N. Huxhold, "Faith in the Epistle to the Hebrews," CTM 38 (1967). 

^Erich Graesser, Der Glaube im HebraeerbriefiMarhurg: Elwert, 1965). 

miller: seven theological themes in HEBREWS 133 

faith in Hebrews in this way is clearly illustrated by his contrast with 
Paul's use of the term: 

With Paul, generatio fidei . . . whereby faith — when it has first of all 
been awakened through the Word — is then itself an "eschatological 
phenomenon," that is, "that which conveys justification to men on the 
basis of 5iKaiO0uvri." Here, with Hb, cooperatio fidei, whereby faith as 
instrument ... is brought in by the hearer himself as the means, as the 
power, with the help of which he puts himself in a wholly settled 
position and perseveres in it.^ 

As a further contrast to Paul, Graesser contends that faith in 
Hebrews is not faith in Christ: "The specifically Christian ('Christo- 
logical') faith finds no further development in Hb, neither in the 
reflective manner of the Apostle Paul, nor in the unreflective manner 
of the Synoptics." '° 

One need look no further than Heb 12:2 and the call to "look to 
Jesus" to conclude that in Heb 11:1-12:2 faith is preeminently 
Christological. The whole "faith cycle" beginning at 10:32 leads up to 
the climactic identification of faith (the means of endurance) with 
"seeing the unseen," that is, Jesus himself. Taking the book of 
Hebrews as a whole, it seems clear in light of the development of the 
teaching on the High Priestly ministry of Christ, and the strong 
exhortation to "enter God's presence boldly" on the basis of that 
ministry (4:14-16; 10:19-25) that faith in Hebrews is pointedly Chris- 
tological. If the phrase iziaxic, zic, Xpiaiov / 'faith in Christ' is not 
used in Hebrews, the idea is certainly implied throughout. Even 
where faith refers simply to God (6:1; 11:6), the background is the 
teaching of chap. 1, that Christ, in contrast to the angels, is God. 

In developing the point that faith is a virtue provided by man, 
Graesser contrasts the view with that of Paul, which connects faith 
with the Word of God. But in Hebrews, as in Paul, the object of faith 
is the word of promise. First, by contrast, unbelief is the rejection of 
the word which is heard (4:1-3). Then, positively, faith focuses on the 
promise (6:12). Therefore, with the personal object (Christ) and the 
promise in mind it is best to understand faith in Hebrews (indeed, 
throughout Scripture as a whole) in the general sense of trust: "from 
a purely formal standpoint there is nothing very distinctive in the 
usage of the NT and early Chr. writings as compared with Gk. usage. 
As in Gk. . . . Triaisusiv means 'to rely on', 'to trust', 'to believe'." '^ 

'ibid., 66; my translation. 
'°Ibid., 79. 

'Bultmann, "jtioTi;," 203. 


The connection of this trust with God's Word is aptly summed up by 
Gerhard Delling who, in another context (and almost in passing), 
speaks of "TriaxK^, which is firm confidence in the fulfillment of God's 
promise. "^^ 

In Heb 11:1-12:2 faith may be defined as an attitude of trust by 
which the believer sees the unseen and thereby sets his hope on the 
divine promise. The elders trusted that they would eventually be 
"brought to completion" and qualified to enter their heavenly father- 
land, that is, the presence of God. They therefore anticipated the 
work of Christ as High Priest which would make that entrance 
possible for them. They "saw the unseen" both in terms of time (the 
future event of the cross) and of space (looking to heaven they 
considered themselves strangers on earth). Inasmuch as they looked 
to God, they also looked to Jesus who is the eternal God. 

The believers to whom Hebrews is addressed live in the age of 
the New Covenant and the fulfillment of the promises. The event of 
the cross and the current ministry of Christ in intercession are the 
bases for confident entrance into God's presence in prayer. They live 
now, however, like the elders once did, on the earthly scene, where 
there is a great race to be run in order finally to reach the heavenly 
city. Their situation involves suffering, which calls for endurance. The 
key to enduring is faith, confident trust in God's promise that "He 
shall come and not delay" (10:37), looking to the Pioneer and Per- 
fecter of faith to lead them on to their final perfection. 


The concept of perfection (teX-) is the second most common 
theme in Hebrews. In extra-biblical Greek and the NT apart from 
Hebrews, the meanings revolve around the idea of bringing a person 
or action to completion. ^^ Most crucial for Hebrews, however, is a 
technical use from the Septuagint. 

The phrase xeXeioco xac, x^lpctq xivoq ... is to be understood along the 
same lines. ... It is . . . used for the Hbr. "to fill the hands" [xVp 
TTTIK]. . . . That someone's hands are made free from stain, or that 
he is made free from stain, means finally that the one concerned is 
"able to practice the cuUus," of. Lv. 21:10.'" 

It is appropriate that Hebrews, with its theme of Jesus as High 
Priest, follows the cultic implications of the Septuagint. Christ is not 
only fully qualified for his ministry as priest, but it is through this 

"Gerhard Delling, "jeXoq," etc., TDNT8 (1972) 86. 
'^Ibid., 80-82. 
"ibid., 80-81. 

miller: seven theological themes in HEBREWS 135 

ministry that he qualifies believers to approach God. This is why the 
elders were not brought to completion, since their qualification was 
based on his priestly act which came later. Delling aptly expresses 
what it means that Jesus is the T£A,8icoTfi^ / 'perfecter' (12:2): 

God has qualified Jesus . . . "to come before him" in priestly action. He 
has done so by the suffering (2:10) in which Jesus confirmed His 
obedience, 5:8f. As the One qualified (TEX8ia)9el(;) for priestly ministry 
before God, as the One eternally qualified (sic, xov aiwva xETEXeiai- 
|i8VO^, 7:28), He is the absolute High-priest. ... By His high-priestly 
work . . . before God Christ has once and for all "qualified" those for 
whom he acts "to come directly before God" (10:14; cf. 7:19) in the 
heavenly sanctuary as men whose sin is expiated.'^ 

The development of the idea of perfection focuses on Jesus as the 
Pioneer who leads believers to maturity in chaps. 1-6. In the middle 
section of the book the focus is on the perfecting ministry of Christ, 
something that could not be accomplished by the Levitical priesthood 
(chaps. 7-10). Then in 11:1-12:2, the elders had not yet come to 
completion (11:40) because Jesus' sacrifice had not yet been offered as 
the basis for their qualification to approach God. Believers of the 
present age, however, with the groundwork of Jesus' sacrifice already 
laid, are regarded as complete (as are the elders since the church age 
has dawned, cf. 12:23). Facing suffering calls for endurance, and that 
endurance is accompUshed by faith, that is, by looking to the Pioneer 
and Perfecter of faith, Jesus (12:2), the one who led the way through 
suffering and who qualifies his people to come before God. 

The concept of 'promise' (tnayy&X-) is unique for two reasons. 
First, as a theological idea it practically originated with the Bible; the 
Greek gods did not make promises, and the gods of the ANE did not 
keep promises. Second, the verbal root itself is very rare in the LXX; 
while promise is a basic OT concept, this particular root is almost 
non-existent in the Greek of the LXX. 

In extra-biblical Greek, the root has many meanings, but the 
common factor in all of them has been mentioned already: "In all 
these examples there is reference to man's promises to a god, but 
never 87tayys?iiai OeoO. . . . There is only one known example of the 
promise of a god."'^ 

"Ibid., 83. 

'^Julius Schniewind and Gerhard Friedrich, "tnayyi'kXid" etc., TDNT 2 (1964), 


Of the four occurrences of the root in the LXX that have a 
Hebrew equivalent, the most instructive is in Esth 4:7. In this verse 
S7rr|yY£i?iaTO translates lOX / 'he said'. The LXX translators took the 
words of Haman to be a "promise." The same is true of the divine 
promise throughout the OT. When God says something, it can be 
taken as promised. A good example of this is found in Gen 15:5: 
"Then He brought him [Abraham] outside and said, 'Look at the sky 
and count the stars — if you can count them!' So, He said ["l^X'! 
MT = LXX eiTrev] to him, 'Thus your seed will be'." In the OT, then, 
the divine word is often the divine promise. 

The NT in some instances follows the secular meaning of extra- 
biblical Greek. ^^ More often, though, it develops the OT idea of 
promise. The verb refers to the promise to Abraham (e.g.. Acts 7:5) 
as well as the eschatological promise (J as 1:12; 2:5; 1 John 2:25). The 
noun is used by Paul to bring these two concepts together. 

In Hebrews the promise is also associated with the promise made 
to Abraham (6:12-20) and yet takes on the status of an eschatological 
hope yet to be realized (10:36). This is because of the other-worldly 
nature of the promised inheritance (as developed, for example, in 
11:13-16). The elders had to welcome the promises "from a distance," 
because the basis of their reception, the High Priestly work of Christ, 
was not yet complete. The believers of this present age, on the other 
hand, have possession of the promise in the sense that Christ's sacri- 
fice is complete, yet in their earthly pilgrimage they are absent from 
the promised heavenly fatherland. They therefore have need of en- 
durance in suffering in order to receive the promise, which the elders 
by now have received (12:22-23). 

Within 11:1-12:2, the concept enajyeX- stresses two major theo- 
logical points. First, by the repetition of the phrase Tiiaxo^ 6 eTrayysi- 
X6\x&voc, I 'He who promised is trustworthy' (10:23, 11:11), the pur- 
pose of God to carry out the promise is estabUshed. Second, the 
contradiction of "received, but did not receive" regarding the elders 
demonstrates the crucial nature of Christ's sacrifice as the basis for 
the fulfillment of God's promises. 


The verbal concept of 'remain' (^isv-) underlies two important 
theological themes in Hebrews: (1) the permanent as contrasted with 
the temporary in God's plan, and (2) endurance in suffering. 

The idea of permanence is common in extra-biblical Greek and 
the LXX. NT theology stresses (1) the immutability of God and 

"Ibid., 579. 

miller: seven theological themes in HEBREWS 137 

divine things (Rom 9:11; 1 Pet 1:23, 25), and (2) the abiding in 
contrast to the transitory (1 Cor 13:13; 2 Cor 3:11).'^ 

This latter theme is central to Hebrews. Beginning in chap. 7, 
Melchizedek and his priesthood are contrasted with the Levitical 
order (vv 2, 23, 24). The former is eternal, the latter temporal. Thus 
the ministry of Christ has an eternal significance. His New Covenant 
is the eternal covenant (13:20), making the first temporary. Evidence 
of this is seen in the ability of the subjects of the Mosaic covenant to 
persevere (8:9). That believers have an eternal possession is proven by 
the fact that the readers were able to take the robbery of their earthly 
goods with joy (10:34). After all, they awaited a kingdom that cannot 
be shaken (12:27), a city that does not remain "here" (13:14). 

Of greater importance for Heb 11:1-12:2 are i)7i:o|X8V8iv and 
i)7ro)aovf| which occur only in the final exhortation (12:1-2). The 
Greeks regarded this as a virtue roughly equivalent to "courage." The 
LXX reflects the OT approach which considered endurance not as a 
manly virtue, but rather an inclination to trust God's promise: "While 
the Greek moralist censured the linking of i)7ronovf| with hope as an 
inadmissible weakening, OT UTionovfi issues almost wholly in hope."'^ 
The peculiar LXX expression UTro^8vovx£(; xov Kupiov / 'waiting on 
the Lord' (cf. Ps 36 [37 MT]:9) does not occur in the NT. However, 
the NT concept of enduring the trials of this present life (1 Cor 13:7) 
implies waiting on the Lord, and "apparently the centrality of faith 
and the prominence given to eXniq ["hope"] as primary Christian 
virtues leave no place for the OT formula. "^° This seems more likely 
where faith and hope occur in the same context with endurance 
(1 Cor 13:13; Titus 2:2). 

The linking of faith with endurance is especially noteworthy in 
Hebrews, where faith is seen as the means of endurance. The readers, 
who have already endured suffering (10:32), still have need of endur- 
ance for the race ahead (10:36; 12:1, 7). Their attention is therefore 
directed toward Jesus, who in carrying out his High Priestly sacrifice 
by enduring the cross (12:2, 3) is the Pioneer and Perfecter of faith. 


The concept 'better' (Kpeixtov) is crucial to the theology of 
Hebrews — it occurs more than twice as often here (13x) as in the rest 
of the NT (6x). Originally a comparative of Kpaxix; / 'strong', it 

'*Also note the specialized uses of p.zv- in the Pastorals and the Johannine 
literature; F. Hauck, "hevco," etc., TDNTA (1967) 574-76. 
"ibid., 584. 
^"ibid., 585. 


is used predominantly in the LXX as a predicate adjective translat- 
ing the Hebrew expression fO . . . 3113 / 'better . . . than' (see Prov 
21:9, 19). 

In Hebrews KpeiTxov is used primarily as an adjective in the 
attributive position ("better hope," "better covenant," for example). 
The word is used first to develop the superiority of Christ (1:4; 7:7), 
then of the better things that relate to salvation (6:9). By the time the 
"something better for us" is mentioned (11:40), on account of which 
the elders could not come to full completion, the readers have already 
heard of the "better hope" (7:19), "better covenant" (7:22; 8:6), "better 
promises" (8:6), "better sacrifices" (9:23), "better possession" (10:34), 
"better fatherland" (11:14, 16), and "better resurrection" (11:35). All 
these things are direct benefits of the cUmactic High Priestly work of 
Christ at the cross. 

The word 'witness' is naturally associated with testimony in a 
legal setting. The root liapx- is so used throughout Greek literature, 
extra-biblical as well as the OT and the NT. There is a more technical 
sense, that of "good reputation," "approval," which predominates in 
Hebrews. This sense of "witness" is based on the veracity of the one 
giving testimony and thus "relates to things which by their very 
nature cannot be submitted to empirical investigation.""^' It is in this 
sense that Hebrews speaks of God "adding his witness" (auvsni- 
liapxupoOvTog, 2:4) to the apostolic preaching and of Scripture 
"emphatically affirming" (5i8|j.apTi)paxo, 2:6) the author's point. 

It is with this background that the unique connotation of 
Hdpxug / 'witness' in 12:1 is best understood: 

The distinctive thing here is, of course, that this vscpot; laapiupcov 
consists of those who according to c. 11 have received witness (acknowl- 
edgement) from God because of their faith. ... As such, they bear 
witness by the very fact of their existence to the authenticity of faith. It 
thus seems that the factual witness is also implicitly a confessing 

The theological import of fiapx- in 11:1-12:2, then, is that God's 
approval comes by faith, that is, by looking to Jesus. As the elders 
looked forward to that sacrifice at the cross, which would ultimately 
qualify them to enter God's presence, they lived by faith. Now that 
Jesus has offered that final sacrifice, believers run the race by looking 
to him, realizing they are surrounded by a cloud of witnesses who are 

"H. Strathmann, y6ipm<;," etc., TDNT4 (1967) 478. 
''ibid., 491. 

miller: seven theological themes in HEBREWS 139 

approved by God and testify to the necessity of faith as the means of 
running with endurance. 


The concept of 'inheritance' (kXtipo-) is derived from the verb 
kA.(xco 'to break', indicating the breaking up and distributing of an in- 
heritance^^ (the meanings in extra-bibhcal Greek fit this etymology).^'' 

The major OT theme is that of the possession of the land 
promised to the fathers. The NT follows this, though often the 
inheritance is a spiritual rather than a material one. There is, how- 
ever, a peculiar emphasis in NT theology: "A firm link is established 
between son-ship and inheritance such as we hardly find in the Old 
Testament and later Judaism, and runs through the whole of the New 
Testament. "^^ 

This emphasis on sonship is also followed in Hebrews. After 
identifying believers with Jesus (1:4, 14) and specifying that their 
inheritance is salvation, the author then develops the concept of 
sonship relative to Jesus as the Pioneer of salvation (2:10-14). 
Believers, then, are those who receive "the promise of an eternal 
inheritance" (9:15). In chap. 11, it is the elders who are heirs (vv 7, 
8, 9). It is significant that the inheritance of "righteousness based on 
faith" precedes the inheritance of the land, since ultimately it is the 
former that qualifies them to stand before God. This fact, together 
with the longing of the elders for the heavenly city (11:13-16), shows 
that the inheritance they saw from a distance was that unseen place, 
the presence of God. It is that place to which the readers have come 
(12:22-24), yet they are still pursuing it as they run their earthly race 
looking to the Pioneer and Perfecter of faith (12:1-2). 


The theological argument of Heb 11:1-12:2 is set within the 
hortatory context of the book as follows: the readers, while tempted 
to desert the New Covenant community for the Old Covenant (10:38- 
39; 8:13), are commended for their past endurance of suffering 
(10:32-34), warned against throwing away their confidence (10:35), 
and told that they need endurance (10:36) in order to lay hold of the 
promised inheritance. That inheritance consists of the better things 
laid up for them, including their final approval by God and entrance 
into his presence in the heavenly city. They are then given an over- 
view of great episodes in the lives of the elders, who were approved 

"Eichler, "KJifjpoc;," 296. 

^"Werner Foerster and Johannes Herrmann, "K^ifipo;," etc., TDNT3 (1965) 768. 

"Ibid., 781-82. 


by God and who endured by faith. Their attention is turned to the 
focus of faith, Jesus, who endured the greatest and most significant 
suffering of all, the cross. The explanation of Jesus' status as Pioneer 
and Perfecter of faith and the conclusion that he has now sat down at 
God's right hand is followed by the sober reminder that the readers 
may face the prospect of death in following their leader (12:3-4), but 
that even so suffering is evidence of the Father's loving hand of 
discipline (12:5-8). 

Finally, to summarize the theological argument of this passage, 
the readers require endurance to run the race and to bear suffering. 
The elders endured by faith. Jesus is the focus of faith. Therefore the 
readers can run the race with endurance by looking to Jesus — faith is 
the means of endurance. 

Grace TheologicalJournal&.l (1987) 141-142 




OMMENTATORS agree that the writer of the book of Amos uses a 

paranomasia involving a basket of summer fruit (fp) and a 
prediction of the coming end (f pn) in 8:1-2 to make a specific point.' 
Such word-plays are not uncommon in Scripture; their general func- 
tion is aptly described by von Rad.^ It is suggested here that the 
device in 8:1-2 is actually the second of two used by the writer of this 

The first word-play occurs on the root f »X, forms of which occur 
only three times in this book. In 2:14 a Piel form of the verb is used 
and in 2:16 an adjectival form. In both cases the prophet is speaking 
of those who are powerful by human standards but whose power is 
futile in the face of the harsh judgment of 2:14-16. 

The last instance of the root f QX appears in the proper name of 
the priest of Bethel: Amaziah (7:10, 12, 14). To suggest a word-play 
here in the conventional sense seems unfounded at first, since the 
terms are not physically adjacent in the text. But the likelihood that 
this is such a literary nicety grows once a larger part of this book is 

One of the dominant themes of Amos's prophecy involves his 
denunciation of Israel. This begins at 2:6, and the prophet's subsequent 
words show a repeated emphasis on the people's refusal to acknowl- 
edge God. Because of this attitude, they are subject to judgment. One 

'See, e.g., R. S. Cripps, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Book of 
Amos (London: SPCK, 1969) 240; E. Hammershaimb, The Book of Amos: A Com- 
mentary (Oxiord: Basil Blackwell, 1970) 120; W. R. Harper, A Critical and Exegetical 
Commentary on Amos and Hosea (New York: Scribner's, 1905) 175; J. L. Mays, 
Amos: A Commentary (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1969) 141; and H. W. Wolff, Joel 
and Amos (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1977) 317, 319. Also, the study by B. D. Rahtjen, 
"A Critical Note on Amos 8:1-2," JBL 83 (1964) 417, notes a use of |'p in the Gezer 
Calendar that is remarkably similar to that in Amos. 

^G. von Rad, Old Testament Theology (2 vols.; New York: Harper & Row, 1962- 
65) 2.84 says: "the word in question loses a certain amount of its meaning, and 
apparently acts as a series of sounds rather than as a way of conveying meaning; but 
this series of sounds, which is the word reduced to its original value, is at the same time 
given a greatly intensified meaning, in that it is now, in respect of its form, surrounded 
by new associations and new meanings." Von Rad identifies word-plays in Isa 10:29- 
31; Jer 1:11-12; Mic 1:10-15. Cf. Harper, Amos and Hosea, 175, where word-plays are 
identified in Jer 50:20, 34, 51:20; Ezek 25:16; and Hos 1:5. 


aspect of the people's obduracy is reliance on their own understanding 
and abilities: they reverse the proper procedure for prophets and 
Nazirites (2:12), oppress the unfortunate (5:12), worship false gods 
(5:26), and engage in insouciant lounging (6:4-6). All this contrasts 
with the acceptable attitude of respect and worship that is character- 
istic of an overt dependence on God. 

Because of this independence, Amos predicts terrible destruction 
destined to fall first on the leaders of the people (6:1) who where 
castigated as impotent despite their power in 2:14-16. When the 
prophet then refers in 7:10-16 to one whose very name speaks of 
power, Amos reminds his readers of God's powerful judgment already 
pronounced. Now, Amaziah himself is to receive a similar punish- 
ment since he denounces the prophet of God (7:17). 

The possibility of a word-play on f ;3X is further suggested by the 
fact that this Amaziah is a character otherwise unknown in Scripture. 
There are references to three other figures with the same name,^ but 
none of these can be Amaziah of Bethel. It is significant, then, that of 
all the detractors encountered by Amos, only this one is specifically 

The first word-play depends on information that runs through 
most of the book. It highlights a problem rife in the OT: the 
independence of Israel from God. This paranomasia in turn sets the 
stage for the obvious device of 8:1-2. In the context of Amos's fourth 
vision, a second word-play serves as the most complete indication of 
destruction given up to this point in the prophecy. The end (8:26),'* 
when the powerful ones will certainly perish, is very near. 

Daniel Schmidt 

'These are: (1) a son of Joash and king of Judah (2 Kgs 14:1-20; 2 Chronicles 25); 
(2) a descendant of Simeon (1 Chr 4:34); and (3) a temple musician in the line of Levi 
(1 Chr 6:45). 

'Also called "that day" (8:3, cf. 2:16). 


Hermeneutics, Authority, and Canon, edited by D. A. Carson and John D. 
Woodbridge. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1986. Pp. 468. $14.95. Paper. 

This book is a major evangelical contribution to the recent deluge of 
books on the issue of biblical inerrancy and authority. Intended as a com- 
panion and supplement to the editors' Scripture and Truth (Grand Rapids: 
Zondervan, 1983), it attempts to maintain a place in the "central tradition of 
the church's understanding of the Bible — but pressing beyond that tradition 
at points to address new questions and to articulate as carefully as possible a 
responsible doctrine of Scripture in light of those new questions" (p. ix). In 
this respect, it is self-consciously in contrast to the recent publications of the 
International Council on Biblical Inerrancy which for the most part, accord- 
ing to Carson, has "simply aimed to restate the traditional positions and 
delineate the weaknesses of their opponents" (p. 7). 

The overall quality and scholarship of the articles is very good, and most 
chapters are filled with insightful discussions and new suggestions for dealing 
with some of the difficulties facing the inerrantist view of Scripture. As is to 
be expected, it is doubtful that anyone will accept all the conclusions found 
here. Nevertheless, this volume commends itself to all who hold (or reject) an 
inerrantist approach as an important work that must be reckoned with. 

As the title suggests, the essays in this book cover a broad range of 
topics. Four of the essays speak, at least in a general sense, of the relation- 
ship between hermeneutics and inerrancy. Vanhoozer provides an important 
discussion of how to understand biblical literature. He follows modern 
theories of language in suggesting a new approach to understanding proposi- 
tion and genre. By broadening the understanding of infallibility and truth 
(beyond science, history, etc.), he reinforces the evangelical conviction that 
the Bible is wholly true, infallible, and inerrant. Silva notes the difficulties of 
historical reconstruction in the NT. The brevity of the biblical record explains 
some of the difficulties in understanding the Pharisees and first century 
Christianity. Blomberg's discussion of harmonization justifies the method as 
one of several ways to deal with difficulties in historical accounts. Examples 
are drawn from both biblical and non-biblical histories. The difficulties of 
sensus plenior for an inerrantist hermeneutic are addressed by Moo. He 
suggests a variety of approaches to the relevant passages, including a broad 
"canonical" approach (cf. Jack R. Riggs, "The 'Fuller Meaning' of Scripture: 
A Hermeneutical Question for Evangelicals," GFJ 7 [1986] 213-28). 

The question of authority is the topic of two essays. Frame's discussion 
of the relationship of the Holy Spirit to Scripture focuses primarily on the 
internal testimony of the Spirit. I would have appreciated more clarity on the 
relation of the Spirit to hermeneutics (illumination). There also seems to be 
some inconsistency regarding the Spirit's illumination concerning the extent 


of the canon (pp. 228-29). Bromiley treats Earth's view of biblical authority 
in a capable, but not particularly ground-breaking fashion. 

Dunbar's extensive discussion of the canon provides a helpful survey of 
the history of the canon and some recent approaches. The stress on the 
salvation-historical context of the NT canon is helpful, although the fact that 
the "Protestant" canon was not standardized until the Reformation needs to 
be addressed more fully. 

The editors contribute two additional essays. Carson surveys recent 
developments in the doctrine of Scripture and furnishes, in essence, an 
introduction to the two volume set. Woodbridge also adds a historical 
analysis of the effect of the Enlightenment on the doctrine of Scripture. 

Some brief comments about the format are in order. The table of 
contents contains helpful abstracts of the articles. There are also several 
useful indexes. My major complaint about format is that the margins are too 
small. This book demands to be read with pen in hand and there is woefully 
insufficient space for notes, comments, etc. Despite this minor failing, this 
volume is essential reading for those who take seriously the scholarly task of 
understanding and especially defending the doctrine of inerrancy. 

Carl E. Sanders II 
Dallas Theological Seminary 

How To Read the Bible, by A. J. Conyers. Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 
1986. Pp. 197. $6.95. Paper. 

Conyers's book is the first in InterVarsity Press's new How To Read 
Series, introducing the subject of Bible study for "nonprofessionals who want 
a professional understanding of Scripture." The series will include titles that 
focus attention on specific sections of the Bible. How to Read the Bible 
presumably provides an overview and context for ensuing books. From this 
first book it is clear that the editors of the series intend to avoid technical 
terminology, specialized information, and theological cruxes. While Conyers's 
book strikes this note clearly, it is uneven in its development of the subject of 
Bible reading and study. 

Part One, "The Art of Bible Reading," provides the groundwork for 
Conyers's consideration of Bible reading. Conyers argues that, because "we 
each read the Bible in our own way" (p. 10), there must be an emphasis on 
the personal element in Bible reading. "We each come to know the soul's 
hunger of David, the anguish of Jeremiah, the burning conviction of Paul. 
The response to such an encounter is unpredictable. It is not, nor should it 
be, governed by rules and techniques" (p. 10). However, Conyers's emphasis 
on the subjective aspect of Bible study threatens to overshadow the need for 
objective, systematic study (the problem of objectivity in hermeneutics not- 
withstanding). In so arguing, Conyers underscores the personal nature of the 
God to be found in the Bible for whom "Scripture is not a dead letter, but a 
living witness" (p. 23). 


The author devotes half of his text to methods of Bible study. The 
middle section entitled "The Practice of Bible Reading," begins from the 
supposition that many well-intentioned Bible readers are frustrated because 
the material has daunted them at some point, probably early in the Penta- 
teuch. In order to avoid such early "burnout," Conyers suggests that the 
reader begin with "representative readings" throughout the Bible. For 
instance, instead of reading all of the OT history consecutively (and thereby 
"stalling"), he suggests reading only Exodus and either Ruth or Esther at 
first. This, Conyers suggests, will help the reader get the flavor of OT history 
without being overwhelmed by its detail too early in the study. By dividing 
the Bible into such familiar categories as history, prophets, etc., and by 
focusing attention on representative books from within each category, 
Conyers provides a workable strategy to help the beginning Bible student 
maintain interest. The author goes on to suggest other methods of Bible 
reading, each building on the previous approach and the whole leading to a 
fairly thorough "first-look" at the biblical data. I found Conyers's observa- 
tion of key topics, such as creation, fall, election, and redemption in the OT, 
particularly useful for the beginner. 

While most of this book is a practical primer, Conyers develops a 
significant theoretical angle in his last section, "Bible Reading in Home and 
Church." His thesis is that "Bible study provides the essential grammar and 
vocabulary of faith" (p. 157). By the term, "vocabulary," Conyers relates 
faith directly to the Word of God; by "grammar," he suggests the relation- 
ships of the believer with God (in all three persons) and with other humans. 
The association of faith with relationships is particularly apt in this last 
section, dealing as it does with the family, the church, and world missions. 
The best material in the book is Conyers's comments on Bible reading in the 
family. The vocabulary of family life, he asserts, is love, faith, loyalty, and 
hope — all leading to truth. The grammar of family life is that it is in family 
relationships that Christians develop the "consciousness of God" that con- 
stitutes the Christian faith. There is, says Conyers, a close relationship 
between God's having communicated (revealed) himself to men and inter- 
communicating within the God-given unit of the family. 

In the last pages of his book, Conyers turns to the church and missions. 
The church in America receives a gentle rebuke in How to Read the Bible for 
the lack of adequate intellectual content in too many sermons. But keep in 
mind that it is in the context of Conyers's emphasis on the personal exper- 
ience of the Bible in study that the reader must understand his comment 
regarding the lack of adequate content in contemporary preaching. Con- 
cerning missions, Conyers makes it clear that there is only one message to 
bring, one source of unity if people in other cultures are to be evangelized. 
The Bible must be upheld as the basis of faith, the only starting point for a 
common language with non-Christians. 

In How to Read the Bible, Conyers and the editors at InterVarsity 
provide the general parameters for the How to Read Series. Conyers gives 
some eminently wise and practical advice for beginning students of the Bible 
and brings a refreshing emphasis on the necessity of faith as the only 


adequate basis for the Christian family. Perhaps the greatest flaw in this 
book is that, though he introduces the significant thesis that Scripture pro- 
vides the vocabulary and grammar of faith, the author develops it incon- 
sistently. However, though not perfectly developed, it is a thesis with which 
every student of the Bible could profitably interact. 

Michael E. Travers 
Liberty University 

Numbers, by Philip J. Budd. Word Biblical Commentary. Waco: Word, 
1984. Pp. xxxii + 409. $18.95. Cloth. 

Budd's commentary on Numbers is one of the pioneering volumes in the 
Word Biblical Commentary. The editors bill this series as "evangehcal." If 
this commentary is considered to be evangelical, then the complete series 
promises to be a mixed bag at best. 

For Budd, Numbers is part of a larger literary whole (comprising the 
books of Genesis through Joshua) that is the product of the priestly school of 
writers (sixth through fifth centuries B.C.). As Budd states. 

The view adopted here is that as recognizable entities the priestly revisions of 
tradition belong essentially with that influential movement in Judaism which 
originated in Babylon in exilic times, and which effected a resettlement in 
Palestine from the late sixth century onward. The revisions provide both an 
apologia for this group of Jews, and also some programmatic proposals for the 
restoration [p. xix]. 

Numbers itself is either totally or substantially the work of the priestly school 
everywhere except chaps. 11-12 and chaps. 21-24. These chapters are chiefly 
the work of the Yahwist whose main concern was to foster national identity 
and unity and whose work of editing and authorship essentially took place 
after the fall of the Northern Kingdom, reaching its peak in the era of Josiah. 
In fact. 

The Yahwist may have been one of the court faction which was able to shape 
the early years of Josiah's reign (2 Kgs 21:24; 22:1), and to influence its course 
throughout. His emphasis on the principles of Mosaic leadership and of a ' 
Mosaic mediation of Sinaitic law prepared the way for the idea of Mosaic 
authority — the foundation of the first edition of Deuteronomy, and the main 
stimulus to the reformation of 621 b.c. [pp. xxiv-xxv]. 

Budd finds this interest in "Mosaic validation" to permeate chaps. 11-12 
(p. 138), chapters that the author of Numbers, "himself an interpreter of 
tradition through supplementation," draws upon to provide a "springboard 
for his own treatment of wilderness disaff"ection" (p. 139). The story of the 
desert snakes (21:4-9), rather than being a true historical account (as Jesus 
himself understood it; cf. John 3:14), was probably "based on a cultic etiology 
of Nehushtan" whose heahng cult was rightly attacked by Hezekiah (2 Kgs 
18:4) for its Canaanite associations (p. 235). The Balaam oracles that make 
up the major portion of chaps. 22-24 receive a complex literary analysis. 
Budd argues that an Elohistic component (p. 262), originating in prophetic 


circles (p. 272), has been molded and heightened by the Yahwistic editor 
(p. 264) to form "a dramatic vindication of the independence of the prophetic 
spirit over against kings, and of the invincibility of Israel under God" 
(p. 272). The final form of the story yields "a powerful celebration of the 
certainty of Israel's success" (p. 273). 

Thus, far from examining a straightforward record of Israel's precon- 
quest journey, Budd's investigations "have proceeded on the assumption that 
the book of Numbers is a complex accumulation of tradition. . . . This 
assumption is rooted in the findings of literary and historical criticism, and 
has been shown to be justified at every stage of the enquiry" (p. xxvi). 

It is obvious that Budd's treatment of Numbers is a modern presentation 
of the older documentary theory. The various conclusions reached in the 
commentary have repeatedly been examined in the standard evangelical 
introductions and commentaries as well as in many critical discussions on the 
Pentateuch. While readers of this commentary will become well acquainted 
with current critical thinking on the book of Numbers, they will find little 
that will be of spiritual enrichment. Accordingly, the book will probably not 
have a warm reception in the evangelical community for which the series 
presumably was targeted. 

Richard D. Patterson 
Liberty University 

Israel among the Nations, by Richard J. Coggins and S. Paul Re^emi. 
International Theological Commentary. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1985. 
Pp. x + 140. $7.95. Paper. 

This volume forms part of the International Theological Commentary 
series, which focuses on the theological interpretation of larger units of the 
biblical texts. Drawing upon an international group of Christian scholars, 
the series' aim is to demonstrate that the biblical message comprises two 
testaments that are intimately related. Therefore, the commentators in this 
series introduce their readers to the Jewish traditions relative to the Bible and 
"to issues that are the special problems of persons who live outside of the 
'Christian' West, issues such as race relations, personal survival and fulfill- 
ment, Hberation, revolution, famine, tyranny, disease, war, the poor, religion 
and state" (p. ix). 

The first two portions of the book are written by Coggins. Coggins finds 
Nahum to be a prophet, roughly contemporary with Jeremiah and the 
Deuteronomist, who drew upon a core of literary expressions common to the 
cult prophets. Coggins entitles the biblical book of Nahum, "In Wrath 
Remember Mercy," and finds the book's central theme to be the absolute 
sovereignty of Yahweh (p. 7). Particular focus is upon the judgment of 
Nineveh, not only as the capital of the oppressive and hated Assyrian empire, 
but as a "symbol of the forces of evil . . . , a symbol which could legitimately 
be reapplied to new situations" (p. 17). 

The pages that follow are based upon a serious consideration of the 
Hebrew text, particularly in the light of its Northwest Semitic linguistic and 


literary associations. Although Coggins often reflects typical critical opinion 
(e.g., Coggins relates 1:15 to an autumn enthronement ritual proclaiming the 
kingship of Yahweh [pp. 33-34], and discounts the helpfulness of 3:8 and 
other data for dating the book [pp. 51-52]), his brief remarks are filled with 
helpful information and spiritual insight. A good working bibliography is 
also included. 

Coggins views Obadiah as having been composed in Jerusalem with the 
basic purpose of proclaiming the judgment of Edom. However, more than 
historical Edom is intended, for "Edom is becoming a symbol of all that 
stands in enmity to God" (p. 76). He hkewise finds Obadiah reflective of the 
custom whereby the prophets used a common "store of vocabulary, probably 
of Jerusalemite origin, upon which diff"erent prophetic collections might 
draw" (p. 74). This Coggins demonstrates in the pages that follow. Although 
the author's frequent attention to literary matters and his own uncertainties 
on several issues make his analysis of Obadiah less rewarding than his 
treatment of Nahum, he leaves the reader with a good grasp of the primary 
themes found in that short book. He again includes a helpful bibHography. 
Both of Coggins's sections, despite their brevity, show good interaction with 
the chief problems of the respective books and the contemporary solutions to 

The final section on Esther by S. Paul Re^emi contains several inter- 
esting suggestions. Re^emi proposes that Esther is a historical novel built 
upon actual events that transpired in Persia early in the reign of Artaxerxes H 
(Mnemon, 404-358 B.C.). Although the book contains a kernel of historical 
truth, it reaches its final form late in the intertestamental period, probably 
in the second century B.C. The book, then, has a historical core "to which 
have been added legendary and pictorial elements, notably the story of 
Vashti and the banquet of the king" (p. 109). The purpose of the author of 
Esther, as reflected in the final edition, is "to show that God is mighty to help 
even in the most desperate of situations. What he wants to say is that no 
human power can finally obstruct God's plan and purpose of salvation, nor 
thwart God's loyalty to his Covenant; for by means of it he had chosen to 
use his own people for the redemption of all mankind" (pp. 113-14). 

Re^emi's brief comments that follow (pp. 115-39) are both concise and 
clear, reading along smoothly, although at times sounding like a paraphrase 
of the text. Although Re^emi's work is brief and somewhat popular in its 
approach, and although Evangelicals will certainly disagree often with the 
conclusions of the author, the helpful and practical insights that he gives 
enable the book to be used with profit. 

Richard D. Patterson 
Liberty University 

First Corinthians, by Robert B. Hughes. Everyman's Bible Commentary. 
Chicago: Moody, 1985. Pp. 157. $5.95. Paper. 

Hughes, who teaches biblical literature at Western Seminary in Portland, 
opens his commentary by presenting "a window on Corinth," in which he 


discusses several key truths taught in 1 Corinthians. These truths show that 
Paul was sensitive to his audience's situation and that he attempted to tailor 
his letter to meet its needs. Hughes then discusses the structure of the epistle, 
Paul's prior relations with the Corinthians, and the occasion for writing. 
Hughes understands 1 Corinthians to be framed by Paul's two mentions of 
his itineraries. The first (4:18-21) marks the transition from the opening 
section of the letter to the weightier matters in chaps. 5-15. The second 
(16:3-9) reveals Paul's plan to change his itinerary and to come to them by 
the land route that passed through Macedonia instead of coming to Corinth 
directly by sea from Ephesus. Paul's purpose in announcing these visits is "to 
place Paul's pending arrival before the readers in the hope that they would 
solve their problems before he arrived" (p. 13). This opening chapter of the 
commentary closes with the practical admonition that the modern reader 
would do well to let 1 Corinthians speak today, since "we will find similar 
targets in our lives that need to be pierced with the same arrows Paul shot so 
long ago" (pp. 18-19). 

The commentary follows a standard format. The innovative contribu- 
tion of the volume is to be found in the author's approach to Paul's 
"strategy" in dealing with the problems among the Corinthians. The strategy 
was threefold: to state the problem, provide a solution, and then give the 
purpose behind the solution (p. 21). For example, in 5:1-3 Paul deals with 
the problem of sexual impurity (vv 1-2) by advancing the solution of cor- 
poreal judgment (v 5) based on his purpose to keep the church free from evil 
(v 7). Hughes maintains this approach throughout the commentary, and it 
must be admitted that it represents a novel and refreshing method. The 
problem with it is that verses must frequently be taken out of context in 
order to be placed into Hughes's scheme. For example, the "problem" of 
spiritual gifts stated in 12:29-30 finds its "solution" in verses that are scat- 
tered throughout chaps. 12-14 (12:12, 22, 25; 13:13; 14:12, 22), several of 
which occur even before the statement of the problem by Paul! Neverthe- 
less, Hughes's method substantially succeeds in establishing Paul's general 
response to the problems plaguing the church. This method would be a 
valuable approach for pastors who are contemplating preaching through 
1 Corinthians. 

The commentary itself has a pleasant and readable format. Hughes's 
comments are generally crisp, brief, and careful. Although he makes use of 
contemporary scholarship, references to other works are kept to a minimum. 
The paragraph by paragraph comments are usually preceded by introductory 
remarks that orient the reader to the structure of the passage and indicate 
any special problems that might exist. In general, the commentary makes no 
special advances over previous studies of 1 Corinthians, though this fact does 
not necessarily reflect negatively on either the author or the publisher. 

A few minor criticisms are in order. While I find myself in substantial 
agreement with the analysis of Hughes, the commentary is obviously aimed 
at lay people who have httle or no training in biblical studies, and it treads 
the thin line between being simple and simpHstic. For the most part it 
contains accurate exegesis, although the doctrinal discussions in particular 
are overly simplified. In a discussion of the weak and the strong, for example, 
Hughes confuses sociological and ethical categories in identifying the strong 


and the weak solely with diflFerent social classes (p. 9). Though Hughes does 
not mention it, this view is becoming the consensus among many NT scho- 
lars, thanks to the work of Gerd Theissen ("Die Starken und Schwachen in 
Korinth," EvT 35 [1975] 155-72) and especially Alfred Schreiber {Die 
Gemeinde in Korinth: Versuch einer gruppendynamischen Betrachtung der 
Entwicklung der Gemeinde von Korinth auf der Basis des ersten Korinther- 
briefes [NTAbh 12; Miinster: Aschendorff, 1977). This interpretation cer- 
tainly contains an element of truth, but the casuistical aspect of the problem 
between the strong and the weak, indicated most clearly by the thrice- 
repeated reference to auvsl5r|ai(; (8:7, 10, 12), must not be ignored (see my 
discussion in Paul, Apostle of Weakness [New York: Lang, 1984] 107-16, 
169-70). It would also be confusing to a layperson, one suspects, to be told 
that "judging the body" (11:29) refers to the human body (p. 114). Surely 
Paul means that Christians must recognize the special character of the 
eucharist as the Lord's Supper. Instead of recognizing the presence of Christ 
at the Supper, many were treating it like an ordinary meal. Paul's point is 
that if Christians wanted merely to enjoy a good meal together, they were to 
do so at home (11:34). 

In short, the very strength of this commentary (its brevity) may also be 
its greatest weakness. In its attempt to reach a broad audience, the work 
probably does not provide laypeople with much new information. Contrary 
to the statement of the book's cover, Hughes's reflections do not oifer an 
"in-depth" picture of 1 Corinthians. They are nevertheless a well-organized 
articulation of confidence in the power of the Holy Spirit of God to over- 
come the weaknesses inherent in mankind. For this salutory reminder alone 
we should be grateful to the author. 

David Alan Black 
Grace Graduate School 

Call to Commitment: Responding to the Message of Hebrews, by William L. 
Lane. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1985. Pp. 184. $7.95. Paper. 

For those NT students whose "Katherine" is the Epistle to the Hebrews 
(to use Luther's description of his beloved Galatians), the forthcoming Word 
Biblical Commentary on Hebrews by William Lane will be welcomed with 
open arms. If it matches the quality of the volumes that have already been 
published, it will indeed be a welcome addition to the student's library. 
Meanwhile, Lane has given us a meaty foretaste of things to come. Call to 
Commitment may be only a primer for Lane's exegetical commentary, but its 
contents are profoundly challenging for any reader who desires a mature 
understanding of this oftentimes enigmatic epistle. 

The issues that Lane addresses in this profoundly simple study of 
Hebrews are the basic ones: Why is Hebrews so frequently neglected in Bible 
study? Why is it frequently omitted in preaching and teaching? What are the 
factors that will enable the average Christian to bring the epistle into the 
realm of his own experience and understanding? While working on his larger 
commentary. Lane struggled with these and other issues. The central impor- 


tance and basic appeal of Hebrews, Lane concluded, is its simple focus on the 
need for renewed commitment to the Lord of the church. It is this central 
theme that makes Hebrews at once so challenging and threatening. Like the 
letter, Call to Commitment is a summons for Christians to take their Chris- 
tianity seriously through practical obedience to Jesus Christ and by living 
with a radically new view of reality that is based on the certain presence of 
God in daily life. Thus, Hke Hebrews itself. Lane's work is more of a sermon 
than a treatise, and as a sermon it addresses concerns that are relevant to 
today's societal stresses. 

Lane understands the literary nature of Hebrews to be sermonic rather 
than epistolary (this is disputed by some, e.g., Leon Morris). This means that 
"we should approach Hebrews as we would approach any sermon, with a 
readiness to hear what a pastor, who is sensitive to God and deeply con- 
cerned for his people, has to say" (p. 17). Hence, throughout the commentary 
Lane is constantly reminding his readers that Hebrews is a call to hsten to 
the voice of God and to allow that Word to penetrate our thoughts and 
attitudes. To use a modern analogy. Lane views the author of Hebrews as a 
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, whose greatest concern is with the cost of discipleship 
(see pp. 20-23). WrestUng with the cost of their commitment to Christ, which 
had brought them persecution and hardship, the readers had come danger- 
ously close to rejecting their faith. For Lane, these circumstances best describe 
the Jewish Christians in Rome who had a first-hand experience of the cost of 
discipleship under Claudius and Nero. In short, Hebrews is essentially a 
pastor's attempt to encourage these believers in the face of their peril and to 
warn them of the consequences if they do not hold firm to their confession. 
This message is not, however, historically bound, but has ramifications for 
Christians of all ages: 

A rediscovery of Hebrews by the contemporary Church will be the source of 
fresh perspectives from which to approach obedience and mission in a mate- 
rialistic and indifferent society. The call to commitment that is issued by this 
sermon for the Christian pilgrim must be proclaimed with renewed intensity 
[p. 179]. 

In the remainder of the commentary. Lane traces the writer's argument 
thought by thought rather than verse by verse. Lane's exegesis is a satisfying 
balance between careful exposition and practical application. For the most 
part he succeeds in allowing the "voice" of the divine Author of Hebrews to 
be heard. In places, however, Lane can be faulted for reading too much into 
the text. For example, in tracing the author's description of the Son in 1:1-4 
to Jewish Wisdom literature {''Jesus is presented in the guise of Wisdom," 
p. 33, his emphasis), Lane may be charged with what Sandmel once called 
"parallelomania." While parallels with Jewish Wisdom sources exist, it seems 
clear that in 1:1-4 the author's central affirmation is the nature and dignity 
of Christ as God's Son. Michel and others have shown that the frequent 
characterization of angels as "sons of God" in the biblical literature (cf. Gen 
6:2; Psa 29:1; 89:7; Job 1:6) is probably the background for the author's 
selection of moc, to describe Jesus in chap. 1 of Hebrews (see O. Michel, Der 
Brief an die Hebrder [Gottingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1966] 111; and 
H. Windisch, Der Hebrews Hebrderbrief [Tubingen: Mohr, 1931] 15). 


Another problem is Lane's attempt to reconstruct the historical setting of the 
addressees. His view that the church consisted of the members of a single 
household and their friends, numbering some fifteen to twenty persons 
"crowded into a single room, standing or sitting on the floor, while one of 
their members reads the sermon aloud" (p. 28), makes for imaginative preach- 
ing, but the average reader may not be able to discern that this description 
speaks more of Lane's hypothetical sagacity than of the actual historical 
situation. Furthermore, Lane's contention that the readers also participated 
in the synagogue (pp. 61-62) is surely questionable in view of the fact that the 
synagogue is never mentioned in the epistle (cf. James 2:2). 

But these criticisms are relatively minor and do not detract from the 
overall positive contribution of this commentary. Call to Commitment will 
serve as a useful study guide for groups as well as a helpful resource for 
individuals. Its focus upon committed Christianity may well be just the thing 
needed to lead to a rediscovery of this often neglected NT book. 

David Alan Black 
Grace Graduate School 

Christian Faith and Historical Understanding, by Ronald Nash with a 
response by Harold Hoehner. Dallas: Probe; Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 
1984. Pp. 174. $5.95. Paper. 

Ronald Nash, of Western Kentucky University, has provided a readable 
and profitable study concentrating on the relation of history to Christianity. 
Is Christianity a historical religion? Is Christian faith grounded in history? 
Nash provides insightful and illuminating answers. 

While the book interacts with the approaches of von Ranke, Dilthey, 
Croce, and Collingwood, the author's focus is directed toward the thought of 
Rudolf Bultmann. Nash off"ers a well informed summary and critique of 
positivism and idealism. He then thoroughly examines the philosophy and 
methodology underlying Bultmann's existentialism. Nash's treatment of the 
relationship of Christianity to the first century Christ event is persuasively 
written. The author demonstrates that Bultm_ann's faulty understanding of 
history based upon naturalistic presuppositions and his method of demytho- 
logizing are the bases for his rejection of the historical resurrection of Jesus 

Moving to evaluate views of objective history, Nash concludes that there 
is at least a possibility of attaining historical knowledge of past events (such 
as the resurrection). He shows the weaknesses both of a radical relativism and 
a radical objectivism when applied to history. He sees the first as illogical and 
the second as unattainable. His solution is a "soft objectivism," which main- 
tains that past events can be known through historical investigation, but that 
such knowledge is never absolute. Does such a position open the door to 
skepticism? Nash says no. Incomplete knowledge, while it should lead to a 
certain humility in the quest for truth, does not entail incorrect knowledge. 

Nash recognizes that historical understanding cannot sidestep the her- 
meneutical question. The objective "facts" are intertwined with the subjective 
interpretations of the historian. 


The concluding sections of the book survey the views of Bultmann, 
Barth, Pannenberg, and Ladd on the subject of the resurrection. In keeping 
with Ladd's position, he acknowledges that assent to the resurrection involves 
historical investigation as well as the presuppositions of faith. 

The book is a useful contribution and should be read by students 
interested in history, philosophy, or theology. The pastor will find material to 
strengthen the church's proclamation that Jesus has been raised from the 
dead and is "Lord." 

David S. Dockery 
Criswell College 

Scripture Index to the New International Dictionary of New Testament 
Theology and Index to Selected Extrabiblical Literature, by David Townsley 
and Russell Bjork. Regency Reference Library. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 
1985. Pp. 320. $14.95. Paper. 

The publication of NIDNTT (vols. 1-2, 1975; vol. 3, 1978) was widely 
hailed in evangelical circles. More concise than Kittel's TDNT, it also held 
promise of being more up to date and less radical in theology. Though 
somewhat flawed in linguistic theory (see M. Silva, WTJ 43 [1981] 395-99), it 
is widely and profitably used by serious students of the NT. In 1982 a 20 page 
Addenda of recent bibliographic material appeared. When originally pub- 
lished, however, NIDNTT lacked a scripture index to complement the indexes 
of Greek and Hebrew words contained in volume 3. This deficiency has now 
been remedied. 

The publication of the index was facilitated by computer technology. It 
is designed to be as inclusive as possible. Therefore, users can assume that 
every reference to a biblical text in the dictionary will appear in the index. As 
the title indicates, selected extrabiblical literature is also included: OT 
apocrypha and pseudepigrapha, the Dead Sea Scrolls, Jewish Hellenistic 
literature, early Christian literature, the Mishnah, and the Babylonian Talmud. 
A byproduct of the index's production was the detection of numerous cita- 
tion errors in the dictionary. A dagger following index entries alerts readers 
to check the handy list of Errata on pp. 319-20. 

Undoubtedly, present users of NIDNTT will want to add this index to 
their set. The index will help to make accessible the rich contents of the 
dictionary. Those who have used the scripture index of Kittel's TDNT 
(vol. 10, 1976) will realize the value of such an index for NIDNTT. However, 
Kittel's index utilizes the helpful technique of noting substantive discussions 
with boldface type. This has not been done in the index for NIDNTT. While 
users of this index may sometimes find "fresh trails" (p. 9) in repeatedly 
looking up secondary citations, more often this will result in "dead ends"! 
The value of the index would have been greater if its format had distin- 
guished substantive discussions of biblical texts from secondary citations. 

One also tends to wonder why the index was published in paperback 
format. It does not match the rest of the set and will probably not last as long 


under heavy use. Probably the reason was cost. When the dictionary was 
released in December 1985, it listed for $8.95. It now lists for $14.95. 

David L. Turner 
Grand Rapids Baptist Seminary 

Christianity and Philosophy, by Keith E. Yandell. Leicester: InterVarsity; 
Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1984. Pp. xi + 289. $10.95. Paper 

Keith Yandell, professor of philosophy at the University of Wisconsin- 
Madison, has contributed the second volume to the new series. Studies in a 
Christian World View, sponsored by the Institute for Advanced Christian 
Studies and guided by the editorship of Carl F. H. Henry. The book is 
concerned with theism in general and Christianity in particular. The purpose 
of this valuable work is to argue that religious claims can be rationally 
assessed and to provide reason for believing Christianity is true. Yandell 
offers a rich exercise in the philosophy of religion. 

Each chapter begins with a two page analytical table of contents and 
concludes with suggestions for additional reading. The analytical table serves 
as a useful introduction to the chapter. Many of the chapters contain difficult 
material, and these introductions provide a great service for the non-specialist. 
The author/ editor should be commended for this helpful format. 

The initial chapter uses human experience to argue for God's existence. 
God is the necessary explanation of human experience. Chap. 2 handles the 
traditional "proofs" for God's existence. The author admits that neither the 
cosmological, teleological, ontological, nor moral arguments qualify as 
"proofs" for God's existence. Yet they do have some explanatory force. 
Chaps. 3 and 4 are responses to objections that can be raised against the first 
two chapters. In these responses, he shows the truth value of religious claims. 

Chaps. 5 and 6 treat the non-cognitivist challenges to theism and moral- 
ity. The relationship between morality and religion is discussed in chap. 7. 
The concluding chapter proposes a program for the rational assessment of 
conceptual systems (religious rationality). If religious claims can be assessed, 
"then it is the task of the philosophy of religion to show that this is so, stating 
the constituents of the assessment procedure and applying that procedure — a 
task that will involve coming to terms with various competing religious and 
non-religious conceptual systems, offering a fair and accurate analysis of their 
contents, considering what can be said for and against their truth, and 
considering possible reformulations of such systems in the light of objections" 
(p. x). Using this program, Yandell presents a strong case for concluding that 
Christianity is true. 

The book is a carefully written example of the value of analytic phi- 
losophy. Directed toward philosophy majors, graduate students, and 
philosopher/ theologians, it is not easy reading. Yandell's writing style is 
cumbersome — the average length of a sentence is more than fifty words. At 
times this confuses rather than strengthens the argument. But his case is 


richly and forcefully presented. The book is not for everyone, but the effort 
required to work through the text is rewarding and beneficial. 

David S. Dockery 
Criswell College 

The Mind of John Knox, by Richard G. Kyle. Lawrence, KS: Coronado, 
1984. Pp. 347. $16.50. Cloth. 

Although there have been many useful biographies of John Knox, 
scholars have given but little attention to this reformer as a theologian. 
Unlike John Calvin (his chief mentor), Knox was not a systematic thinker or 
writer, so bringing his beliefs into an organized format is a formidable 
undertaking. Richard G. Kyle, a historian at Tabor College, has, however, 
performed this task admirably, producing the first full-scale intellectual biog- 
raphy of Scotland's famed reformer. 

This book originated as a Ph.D. dissertation at the University of New 
Mexico, and despite some revisions, it still bears the hallmarks of a decidedly 
academic document. Consequently, it is rather difllicult to read in places, but 
one who follows it carefully will find his patience amply rewarded. One would 
do well to read the conclusion first, for it sheds considerable light on the text. 

Kyle has, for the most part, made careful use of the appropriate primary 
sources and the relevant secondary interpretations, and his documentation is 
massive. After a brief introduction he examines his subject's beliefs on 
Scripture, God, the church, man, sin, and salvation; and in the last chapter he 
relates Knox's thinking about civil government and the Christian's role as a 

Although Kyle concurs with most Reformation scholars in holding that 
Knox was a disciple of Calvin (from whom he borrowed extensively), he 
indicates correctly that the Scottish reformer was indebted to Luther, Zwingli, 
and Bucer as well. In fact, in the judgment of this reviewer, the documenta- 
tion of Luther's influence on Knox and other Protestants is one of the most 
helpful features of this book. 

Such documentation is, however, irregular, and too often citations are 
drawn from secondary works, even where primary sources are readily avail- 
able. Kyle has done this at points with Calvin as well as Luther. Aside from 
this methodological flaw, the weaknesses of this book are few. They are not, 
however, insignificant. One wonders, for example, why Kyle admits that 
Knox was a biased historian and then remarks, "unbiased history is an 
eighteenth and nineteenth century development" (p. 13). This is a pecuhar 
observation from one who obviously is well informed about the canons of 
critical historiography. Kyle surely must know that there is no such thing as 
unbiased historical writing, and the leading authors of that era wrote within 
the Weltanschauung derived from their own presuppositions. 

In places it appears that Kyle is poorly informed about areas of Refor- 
mation history that relate indirectly but importantly to his subject. This is 
evident in his appraisal of Anabaptist soteriology. He contends that the 


Anabaptists "did not repudiate the Lutheran doctrine of justification but 
rather attempted to read a stronger ethical content into it" (p. 96). It is 
misleading to argue that disagreement between Lutherans and Anabaptists 
over this concept was principally one of emphasis. Mennonite scholars such 
as Robert Friedmann {The Theology of Anabaptism [Scottdale, PA: Herald, 
1973]), and Walter Klaassen, ed. {Anabaptism in Outline [Scottdale, PA: 
Herald, 1981]), have shown that the leading Anabaptist preachers of the 
sixteenth century were synergists who did not regard justification as a. forensic 
act of God, while Kenneth R. Davis {Anabaptism and Asceticism [Scottdale, 
PA: Herald, 1974]), has argued convincingly that Anabaptist soteriology was 
closer to the position of late medieval Catholicism than it was to the sola fide 
of the Protestant reformers. 

Despite the author's inadequate grasp of the Anabaptist doctrine of 
salvation and his sometimes ungrammatical style of writing, this is a fine 
book. Kyle is at his best in relating the teachings of Knox across the spectrum 
of theology. He shows keen understanding and penetrating insight into the 
thinking of Knox and his significance in the Scottish Reformation. His 
treatment of Knox as a "prophet" is especially interesting, and it leads this 
reviewer to ask if Knox flirted with extrabiblical revelation! Perhaps Kyle 
would like to address this question in an essay intended for publication in a 
scholarly journal. 

The Mind of John Knox is likely to remain the definitive treatment of 
this subject for a long time to come. Congratulations to the author for 
supplying a long-standing need in Reformation studies. 

James E. McGoldrick 
Cedarville College 

Chronological and Background Charts of Church History, by Robert C. 
Walton. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1986. 84 charts. $8.95. Paper. 

How is one to get a grasp of nineteen hundred years of church history? 
Many survey volumes are available on the subject. Some of these studies 
utilize charts to simplify certain segments of church history. Walton has 
produced a book of eighty-four charts which, used in conjunction with a 
good textbook on church history, can help the reader to gain a summary 
knowledge of the subject. I would emphasize that this work must be used 
along with a text, for it simply presents charts without narrative. This book is 
a supplement, not an authoritative source. 

The charts provide helpful syntheses of the ancient councils of the 
church, identification of various leaders in the church (with their essential 
ideas), and a summary of the first seven crusades. A disproportionate amount 
of space is given to the American church (twenty-four of the eighty-four 
charts). Such an emphasis is understandable since the book is pubhshed for 
an American readership. Especially helpful are the "family trees" of nine 
American church groups. 

In any collection such as this, questions can be raised about the author's 
methodology in selecting what data to present. The field of study is so broad 


that abbreviation is necessary. It is interesting that in a pubhcation empha- 
sizing American church history, under the heading of "Prominent Roman 
Cathohc Missionaries" there is no mention of those who brought that tradi- 
tion to North America. The presentation of "Notable Protestant Historians 
of the Church" omits the name of George P. Fisher. Along with the names of 
prominent American Puritans are listed several of their important writings. 
Roger Williams is one of the Puritans listed, but his significant work. The 
Bloody Tenet of Persecution, is not listed as one of the important writings. 

Some identifications can be challenged. J. Ross Stevenson is incorrectly 
presented as a liberal in the Modernist versus Fundamentalist controversy in 
the Presbyterian Church. Not even J. Gresham Machen, who often opposed 
Stevenson on the Princeton Seminary faculty, called Stevenson a hberal. He 
was recognized widely as an Evangelical. The distinctives listed as part of 
"The Radical Reformation" are not related directly to particular movements 
or persons. One could wrongly conclude that all Anabaptists agreed with all 
of the distinctives. For example, it is inappropriate to conclude that Balthasar 
Hubmaier was a pacifist. The identification of some as "heretics" in the early 
church causes one to desire a definition of heretic. 

These problems substantiate the claim that these charts can be used as a 
helpful study aid only in conjunction with a good textbook. They can also 
serve as a means of bringing to remembrance previously gained knowledge. 

Ronald T. Clutter 
Grace Theological Seminary 

Windows to the World: Literature in Christian Perspective, by Leland Ryken. 
Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1985. Pp. 194. $7.95. Paper. 

Clearly a manifesto for a specifically Christian response to literature, this 
book articulates a much-needed statement regarding the place of literature in 
the Christian life. Ryken argues that we not only look at literature, but we 
also look through literature at life. It is a "window to the world" (p. 15), or, 
as C. S. Lewis puts it, "My own eyes are not enough for me, I will see 
through those of others" {An Experiment in Criticism, cited by Ryken, 
p. 129). Literature refracts, rather than reflects, life; it is a "distorting mech- 
anism" (p. 56). The implications of this refractive process are many and are 
the subject of the book. 

This book is not a scholarly analysis with exhaustive citations of the 
literature in the field. The author finds his way, through the maze of current 
literary theory with astonishing ease, nodding only in passing to the 
Structuralists and Deconstructionists. This is not a criticism of the book, 
especially insofar as Ryken and the Christian Free University Curriculum 
editors clearly have in mind a general audience. The approach that Ryken 
takes is in keeping with the purpose of the book, which is to provide an 
apology for literature in the Christian experience, not a critique of modern 
literary theories. In a methodological departure (but not a philosophical shift) 
from his earlier book. Triumphs of the Imagination (1979), Ryken holds in 
this latest book to a reader-response position, because it 


has produced the best opportunity in recent history for Christian readers/ critics 
to get a fair hearing in the academic world. Christians are not asking for a 
privilege that others do not also expect, namely, the right to respond to literature 
in terms of who they really are [p. 126]. 

Certainly, Ryken's moderate voice here will gain for the book an audience 
comprised of Christians and non-Christians alike; surely both groups of 
readers need to know something about the relationship between literature 
and faith. 

The relationship between "sacred" and "secular" writings is an old ques- 
tion. Augustine and Calvin both wrestled with the issue of the relationship of 
the classics with biblical revelation, though they came to different conclu- 
sions. Milton's Son of God in Paradise Regained interacts more significantly 
with this question than he does with any other of Satan's temptations. 
Entering the arena on the side of the theists, Ryken argues emphatically that 
literature is "good" for its readers because it provides concrete images (p. 19); 
because it is experiential (p. 20); because it teaches indirectly (p. 21); and 
because it interprets life (p. 21), heightening and expressing perceptions of life 
to be considered objectively (pp. 27-28). None of these claims prove that 
hterature is uniquely valuable to a Christian, merely that it may be valuable 
to anyone. For a Christian, Ryken argues, literature is "good" because "the 
Bible is in large part Uterary in nature" (p. 32). 

In chap. 2, "Imagination: The Lie that Tells the Truth," Ryken addresses 
the difficult question of the various types of truth in literature. To this 
reader's satisfaction, the author holds here to a balanced view that is 
thoroughly defensible bibhcally. He warns that a reader will not always find 
truth in literature: "the arts do not always or necessarily or inherently or 
universally tell the truth. The imagination did not escape the effects of the 
Fair (p. 50). A reader cannot depend upon finding truth in literature; he 
must discover truth in the Bible, then examine literature in the light of that 
truth. But there is another side to the matter: literature may tell the truth. 
And, at times, it does. Relying heavily on Northrop Frye {The Educated 
Imagination and The Great Code), Ryken notes that the world of literature is 
"a concrete human world of immediate experience" (Frye, Imagination, cited 
by Ryken, p. 37) in which is found universal truths of the human condition. 
This is the historic Aristotelian position, updated by Ryken through Frye. 
Perhaps the least satisfactory section of this chapter is the rather mundane 
list of archetypes (pp. 46-48) that the author cites to validate his claim that 
literature deals with quintessentially human matters. Ryken bolsters his 
argument for the value of archetypal truth by citing the creativity (even 
the imaginativeness) of God (p. 57) and the literary form of much of the 
Bible (p. 58). 

When he turns to the value of literature as a leisure activity, Ryken 
builds his case on the creativity and beauty of God. Chap. 3, "Literature as 
Recreation," is not only the chapter which will interest the greatest number of 
readers, but it is also one of the book's most compelling: 

Every well-balanced person devotes time to leisure pursuits. The question 
then becomes. What constitutes a worthwhile use of leisure time? There is no 
one right answer. But . . . literature has much to commend it as a leisure 


activity. In a day of mindless leisure pursuits, literature stands out by engaging 
our mind. It awakens our imagination and frees us from our own time and 
place. It enriches our life by making us aware of the world within and without. 
It makes us sensitive to human experience and human fears and longings (in 
other words, basic human nature) [pp. 69-70]. 

There is a human compulsion to enjoy literature, as these words attest; man is 
enriched by the imaginative experience of human joys and sorrows. But Ryken 
cites the character of God in presenting a more legitimate explanation as to 
why hterature is to be enjoyed. "Beauty," he writes, "is divine in origin" 
(p. 74). The ability to enjoy beauty, Ryken argues, is theistic; that is, we can 
enjoy beauty because God is beautiful, and he created us in his image. 
"Scripture tells us," Ryken states, "that people are created in the image of 
God. This means . . . that they have the ability to make something beautiful 
and to delight in it. This is the biblical aesthetic" (p. 77). 

With chaps. 4 and 5, the author enters a current literary debate con- 
cerning the relationship of the writer with his text, and of the reader with the 
text. Current literary theory is in a state of chaos. Most literary theorists hold 
to a Structuralist view of linguistics, thereby denying that there is any 
possibiUty for objective understanding of a literary text; the Deconstruc- 
tionists have gone so far as to assert that there is no antecedent meaning in a 
text, and that the "good" reader, therefore, creates his own meaning for a 
text. How can a Christian literary theorist hold exclusively to either of these 
views? By the very issue he addresses here, Ryken has a dilemma on his 
hands. In an ironic reversal, Ryken summons the secular critic's own 
standard, pluralism, to his service. He grants himself the prerogative to 
analyze literature from whatever position he wishes. Of course, he bestows 
the same privilege on every Christian literary critic. By espousing critical 
pluralism as the entree by which a Christian can appreciate literature, Ryken 
ironically locks his own critical stance into one approach. He shifts sig- 
nificantly from the formalism and archetypalism of Triumphs of the Imagina- 
tion (1979) to a reader-response approach to literary criticism in this book. 
His position is patent: "Unless the reader fills those words [that is, the words 
of the author in a text] with content, no literary process occurs" (p. 1 12). The 
phrasing here suggests to this reader that Ryken holds that the reader creates 
a significant portion of the meaning of a literary text. To grant that a reader 
creates meaning, if this is what the author intends in this book, is close to 
critical solipsism. Surely there is a more objective means of understanding 
meaning and a more categorical linguistic theory upon which to base analysis 
of a literary text. To be fair to Ryken, he does attempt to balance his 
comments on the reader's interpretive activity by insisting that the text is the 
final tribunal of meaning: "having emphasized the subjective element in 
reading, I must urge a caution. Readers do not have a right to make a work 
say anything they wish to see in the work" (p. 125). This caveat is important, 
for in it Ryken implies (and he immediately elaborates specifically) that the 
author's intention is the final authority in interpreting a literary text. Ryken 
touches on a major issue in modern literary theory and in hermeneutics here: 
in E. D. Hirsch's terms, the difference between meaning and significance. 
Unfortunately, however, Ryken does not acknowledge the crux and thereby 
fails to alert his readers to the dilemma they face. 


Chap. 6 is a refreshing examination of the subject of "world view" in 
literature. Ryken avoids the pretentious terms of current literary theory, such 
as "paradigm" and its synonyms, turning instead to a comprehensible state- 
ment of how an author interprets reality in his work. "In kernel form," Ryken 
writes, "a world view is a coherent view of life made up of basic assumptions 
and an integrating central value" (p. 136). It includes, he notes, the author's 
basic premises regarding the three subjects of reality, morality, and values 
(p. 38). A world view is an integrating principle in a work of literature, a 
perception of the world from a particular perspective that synthesizes the 
imaginative world in the work. Ryken's comments on the subject of world 
view are particularly incisive, consciously predicated on a theistic world view, 
which he outlines briefly (pp. 145-46). For this reader, this chapter is one of 
the most satisfying in the book, bearing as it does on the central issue for a 
Christian literary critic of biblical integration; Ryken's understanding of 
integration has always been a hallmark of his writing. 

The final chapter of Windows to the World deals with the ever vexing 
issue of morality in literature. In a day when secularists and theists charge 
one another with subverting school textbooks with their dogmas, imaginative 
literature draws more charges than any other type of written literature. 
Because literature deals with human nature and human experience in a fallen 
world, it is particularly vulnerable to moral abuse. On what basis does a 
Christian reader determine a book to be immoral or undesirable? How is he 
to judge? Not everyone will agree with Ryken's guidelines in this matter, 
though he cautions that what he suggests about morality in literature must be 
read in the context of the book at large. Briefly, he notes two areas of 
paramount importance in literature that aff"ect the question of its moraUty: 
the moral issues in the work, and their effects on the reader (p. 158). Ryken 
adduces a series of ways in which a work of imaginative literature can be 
either moral or immoral (pp. 163-64), thereby providing guidelines that each 
reader may apply for himself. Ryken deals tastefully with the issue of litera- 
ture and morality, never violating the reader's responsibility to judge for 
himself whether or not a work of literature is immoral. 

Windows to the World: Literature in Christian Perspective is a sig- 
nificant book. Published at a time when literary criticism is surely at its nadir 
in this country, it provides the outlines of the way back. By avoiding the 
solipsism of such current literary theorists as Derrida and his progeny, Ryken 
strikes a blow for the shareability of imaginative literature on the basis of our 
common humanity. Further, Ryken predicates the validity of the "dialogue" 
between reader and writer on the creativity of God and the derived creativity 
of man as created in God's image. He strikes a felicitous balance throughout 
the book, never guilty of the Augustinian or Arnoldian errors: he neither 
dismisses literature as hopelessly pernicious, nor does he adulate it as a new 
religion for our day. 

Michael E. Travers 
Liberty University 

Books Reviewed 


Carson, D. A., and Woodbridge, John D., eds., Hermeneutics. Authority, and 

Canon (Carl E. Sanders II) 143 

CoNYERS, A. J., How to Read the Bible (Michael E. Travers) 144 


BuDD, Philip J., Numbers, Word Biblical Commentary (Richard D. Patterson) 146 
CoGGiNS, Richard J., and Re^emi, S. Paul, Israel among the Nations, Inter- 
national Theological Commentary (Richard D. Patterson) 147 


Hughes, Robert B., First Corinthians, Everyman's Bible Commentary (David 

Alan Black) 148 

Lane, William L., Call to Commitment: Responding to the Message of Hebrews 
(David Alan Black) 150 


Nash, Ronald, Christian Faith and Historical Understanding (David S. 

Dockery) 152 

Townsley, David, and Bjork, Russell, Scripture Index to the New Inter- 
national Dictionary of New Testament Theology and Index to Selected 
Extrabiblical Literature, Regency Reference Library (David L. Turner) ... 153 

Yandell, Keith E., Christianity and Philosophy (D&\\d S. Dockery) 154 


Kyle, Richard G., The Mind of John Knox{i&mQs E. McGoldrick) 155 

Walton, Robert C, Chronological and Background Charts of Church History 

(Ronald T. Clutter) 156 


Ryken, Leland, Windows to the World: Literature in Christian Perspective 

(Michael E. Travers) 157 




Volume 8 No 2 Fall 1987 

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ISSN 0198-666X. Copyright © 1987 Grace Theological Seminary. All rights reserved. 


Volume 8 No 2 Fall 1987 

The Psalm of Habakkuk 163 


Nag Hammadi, Gnosticism, and New Testament Inter- 
pretation 195 


Deuteronomy: An Exposition of the Spirit of the Law . . 213 


The Holy Spirit's Ministry in the Fourth Gospel 227 


The Role of Women in the Church: A Survey of Current 

Approaches 241 


A Computer-Aided Textual Commentary on the Book of 

Philippians 253 


Book Reviews (see inside back cover) 29 1 

Books Received 309 

Theses and Dissertations At Grace Theological Seminary, 

1987 319 


William W. Combs 

Detroit Baptist Seminary, 4801 Allen Road, Allen Park, MI 

Carl B. Hoch, Jr. 

Grand Rapids Baptist Theological Seminary, 1001 Beltline NE, 
Grand Rapids, MI 49505 

Richard D. Patterson 

Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary, Graduate School of Reli- 
gion, Box 20000, Lynchburg VA 24506 

James D. Price 

Temple Baptist Theological Seminary, 1815 Union Avenue, 
Chattanooga, TN 37404 

Walt Russell 

Liberty University, Box 20000, Lynchburg, VA 24506 

John H. Walton 

Moody Bible Institute, 820 North LaSalle Crive, Chicago, IL 

Grace Theological Journal S.2 (\9S7) 163-94 


Richard D. Patterson 

Thematically, textually, and literarily, the psalm of Habakkuk 
(3:3-15) differs markedly from the material in the rest of the book. 
Translation and subsequent analysis of the psalm reveal that it is a 
remnant of epic literature, and as such it focuses on the theme of the 
heroic. Throughout the passage, God is the hero whose actions divide 
the psalm into two parts. The first poem (vv 3-7) relates the account 
of an epic journey as God guides his people toward the land of 
promise. In the second poem (vv 8-15), God's miraculous acts in the 
conquest period are rehearsed. The singing of these two epic songs 
was designed to evoke in the listeners a response of submission to 
Israel's Redeemer. Habakkuk 's own response (in vv 16-19) illustrates 
the proper movement toward Israel's grand and heroic Savior. 


AN enigmatic psalm of praise occupies the greater portion of the 
third chapter of Habakkuk's prophecy' and exhibits striking 
differences from the preceding two chapters. Thematically, the first 
two chapters are largely narrative, recording Habakkuk's great per- 
plexities (1:2-4, 12-17) and God's detailed responses (1:5-11; 2:1-20); 
whereas, with the third chapter, a positive tone emerges in the 

'W. F. Albright, "The Psalm of Habakkuk," in Studies in Old Testament Prophecy 
Dedicated to T. H. Robinson, ed. H. H. Rowley (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1950) 1, 
notes, "The Psalm of Habakkuk, with its magnificent but often obscure imagery has 
attracted many generations of scholars to its study." Despite scholarly scrutinizing, 
Habakkuk 3 has defied a final solution. B. Margulis, "The Psalm of Habakkuk: A 
Reconstruction and Interpretation," ZA W S2 (1970) 41 1, well remarks, "The numerous 
treatments of the problems involved, in whole or in part, attest scholarly interest while 
the serious divergences of opinion and conclusion indicate the need and desirability of 
a new approach." (Note that Margulis includes an excellent bibliography of studies on 
Habakkuk 3, pp. 440-41.) Although the observations that follow make no claim to be 
a final solution of all the problems in the tantalizingly diflficult poetic material in Hab 
3:3-15, it is hoped that they will demarcate some elements that will point toward their 
final solution. 


prophet's great prayer of praise of God. The first two chapters are 
written in the usual classical Hebrew that was prevalent in the seventh 
century B.C., whereas the psalm of chap. 3 utilizes older literary 
material that had been passed down since Moses' day. Futhermore 
these two sections are written in distinctively different literary vehicles. 
The first two chapters were composed largely in literary forms that 
are typical of prophecy such as oracles, laments, and woes. However, 
the psalm of Hab 3:3-15 is written in an older poetic format that 
contains some very difficult Hebrew grammatical constructions and 
very rare words. 

These factors, plus the inclusion of several musical notations 
(3:1, 3, 9, 13, 19) and the exclusion of the third chapter from the 
Pesher Habakkuk of the Qumranic corpus, convinced many liberal 
scholars that Habakkuk 3 is not an authentic work of the prophet but 
is made up of several independent units that had been united with the 
prophet's own writings.^ However, although it may deny the unity of 
Habakkuk, current critical scholarship tends to consider the resultant 
canonical book of Habakkuk to be the work of the prophet. Thus, 
Eissfeldt remarks, 

We must therefore regard the book of Habakkuk as a loose 
collection of a group of songs of lamentation and oracles (i, 2-ii, 4), a 
series of six cries of woe (ii, 5-20), and the prayer of iii, which all stem 
from the same prophet Habakkuk, probably a cult-prophet, and origi- 
nated in approximately the same period.^ 

Leaving aside matters of authorship, date, and composition, this 
article will address specifically Habakkuk's psalm in 3:3-15. Having 
looked at the text and noted some of its distinctive diflficulties, an 
analysis of its grammatical, literary, historical, and theological fea- 
tures will be undertaken. A discussion of the identity of the literary 

"See J. A. Bewer, The Literature of the Old Testament (3rd ed.; New York: 
Columbia University, 1962) 151. Actually more than just Hab 3:3-15 has been denied, 
at times, as being genuine, some going as far as Marti who felt that only seven verses in 
the entire book were genuinely the work of the prophet (cf. H. D. Hummel, The Word 
Becoming Flesh [St. Louis: Concordia, 1979] 344). See further, R. K. Harrison, 
Introduction to the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1969) 932-37. 

^O. Eissfeldt, The Old Testament: An Introduction, trans. Peter R. Ackroyd (New 
York: Harper & Row, 1965) 420. This writer believes that a good case can be made for 
Habakkuk's authorship of the entire three chapters thematically, historically, and 
contextually. See the remarks in the Introduction to the "Commentary on Habakkuk" 
in the forthcoming Evangelical Commentary on the Bible, ed. W. Elwell (Grand 
Rapids: Baker). In the translation and discussion below, recourse will be made at times 
to the principle of the phonetic consonantism of the MT. For details as to phonetic 
consonantism, see F. J. Cross, Jr., Studies in Ancient Yahwistic Poetry (Baltimore: 
Johns Hopkins, 1950)59-61. 


genre of Habakkuk's psalm will follow, together with an examination 
of its literary dependence on other poetic works of the same genre 
in the literature of the ancient Near East. The closing summation 
and conclusions will consider the significance of the psalm for the 



3. Eloah came from Teman, 

The Holy One from Mount Paran. 
His glory covered the heavens 
And his praise filled the earth. 

4. His brightness was like the light; 
Rays (flashed) from his very own hand 

That were from the inner recesses of his strength. 

5. Plague went before him 

And pestilence went out from his feet. 

6. He stood and shook the earth; 

He looked and made the nations to tremble. 
The everlasting hills were shattered; 
The eternal hills were made low 
— His eternal courses. 

7. I looked on Tahath-Aven 

The tents of Cushan were trembling, 
The tent curtains of the land of Midian. 

8. Oh, Lord, were you angry with the rivers, 
Or was your wrath against the streams. 
Or your fury against the sea 

When you were mounted upon your horses, 
Your chariots of salvation? 

9. You laid bare your bow; 

You were satisfied with the club which you commanded. 

10. The earth was split with rivers; 

The mountains saw you, they trembled. 
Torrents of water swept by; 
The deep gave its voice; 
It lifted its hands on high. 

11. Sun and moon stood still in their lofty height; 
They proceeded by the light of your arrows, 
By the flash of the lightning, your spear. 

12. In indignation you tread upon the earth; 
In anger you trampled the nations. 

13. You went out to save your people, 


To deliver your anointed. 

You smashed the head of the house of evil; 

You stripped him from head to foot; 

14. You split his head with his own club. 
His leaders stormed out; 

To scatter the humble was their boast, 
Like devouring the poor in secret. 

15. You tread upon the sea with your horses, 
Heaping up the many waters. 

Verse Three 

The interchangeability of the three OT words for God 'rx, D''n'?X, 
and nlVx makes any precise distinction to be difficult at best. The use 
of the last word was predominant in the earlier periods, particularly 
in connection with Edomite Teman as shown by the frequency of its 
employment in the dialogue between Job and EHphaz. Accordingly, 
Hummel may be correct in suggesting an association of this name for 
God particularly with that region. "* It occurs in other early literature 
in Deut 32:15, 17 and Ps 18:32 (Heb.; cf. Ps 114:7). 

One might also construe the second line of v 3 as reading "and 
the holy ones from Mount Paran," taking the of Mount Paran 
with tt'lp, thus reading UW"^^, and utilizing the preposition of line 
one for line two, as well.^ "Holy One" is a common epithet for 
Yahweh (cf. Job 6:10 with Lev 11:44). It was often used by Isaiah 
(e.g., 6:3) and has already been employed by Habakkuk (1:12). 

Teman names the southernmost of Edom's two chief cities. Edom 
itself is also called Teman (Obad 9), the name stemming from a 
grandson of Esau (Gen 36:11, 15, 42; Jer 49:7, 20) whose descendants 
inhabited the area. (For the relationship Esau = Edom, see Gen 
25:25, 30.) Edom was formerly called Mount Seir (Gen 36:8-9; Deut 
2:12). Paran designates not only a mountain range west and south of 
Edom and northeast of Mount Sinai, but a broad desert area in the 
Sinai Peninsula. (For the juxtaposition of Seir and Paran, see Gen 
14:6.) All three terms appear to be used as parallel names for the 
southern area that stretched as far as the Sinai Peninsula. Thus Deut 
33:l-2fl reads: "Yahweh came from Sinai; he beamed forth from Seir; 

"•Hummel, The Word Becoming Flesh, 461. See further, H. D. Preuss, TDOT 
1.272; J. Scott, TWOT\A3. 

'For the presence of God's angels/ holy ones in the movement from the south, see 
Deut 33:26-3; for the use of double duty prepositions, see M. Dahood, Psalms (AB; 
Garden City; Doubleday, 1970) 3.435-37. 


he shone from Mount Paran." The movement from the southeast is 
also mentioned in Judg 5:4-5, 

"O Lord, when you went out from Seir, 

When you marched from the land of Edom, 

The earth shook, the heavens poured, 

The clouds poured down water. 

The mountains quaked before the Lord, the One of Sinai, 

Before the Lord, the God of Israel." 

and Ps 68:7-8 (Heb. 8-9), 

When you went out before your people, O God, 
When you marched through the wasteland. 
The earth shook, 
The heavens poured down rain." 

The motif seems to be a key one in Israel's early epic tradition. Thus, 
Cross points out, 

The relation of this motif, the march of Conquest, to the early Israelite 
cultus has been insufficiently studied. The last-mentioned hymn, Exodus 
15, is rooted in the liturgy of the spring festival ("Passover" or Massot), 
and it may be argued that it stems originally from the Gilgal cultus as 
early as the twelfth century B.C. It rehearses the story of the Exodus in 
the primitive form, the march of Conquest (13-18), and after the 
"crossing over," the arrival at the sanctuary (verses 13, 17).^ 

inVnn is sometimes translated "splendor" rather than "praise" 
(see BDB, 240). 

Verse Four 

Q'51i? / 'rays' comes from a root meaning "to shine." The noun is 
used primarily for the horns of various animals and hence becomes 
employed figuratively as a symbol for strength or power. The juxta- 
position of radiance and power can be seen in the incident of the 
outshining of God's power through Moses' face (Exod 34:29). Both 
radiance and power seem to be clearly intended here. The dual form 
also controls the verb 7VT\ which takes the /-form common to older 

""F. M. Cross, Jr., "The Divine Warrior in Israel's Early Cult," in Biblical Motifs, 
ed. Alexander Altmann (Cambridge: Harvard University, 1966) 25. Cross links this 
motif with the idea of kingship and suggests that both were utilized in the royal cultus 
(pp. 27-33). See further, R. Patterson, "The Song of Deborah," in Tradition and 
Testament: Essays in Honor of Charles Lee Feinberg, eds. John S. Feinberg and Paul 
D. Feinberg (Chicago: Moody, 1981) 130-31. 


]V2r\ is hapax legomenon from the root HDll / 'to hide'. The 
whole line is extremely difficult and has occasioned many suggestions 
and emendations. Some meaning, such as "secret place," "inner 
recesses," or "source," has usually been put forward here. Likewise, 
the preceding word Q^ can be variously pointed as W^ / 'there', Ufl? / 
'name', or UW j 'set'. Thus, the line could be translated variously: 
(1) "There was the hiding place of his might," (2) "(Its) name was 'The 
Source/ Secret Place of his strength,'" or (3) "Set (there) from [utiliz- 
ing the preposition from the preceding line] the inner recesses of his 
strength." The suggestion that would point the word as "name" would 
be in keeping with the ancient Near Eastern practice of naming 
weapons and essential features.' The word may also be divided by 
adding the ?3 to the following word, yielding a still different result (see 

It may be added that ivnn has often been related to the root 
HDn/IDn / 'cover' and accordingly is translated "covering."* Thus, 
the line would be translated, "And there is the covering of his power," 
or "The name of the covering is His Strength." If this latter sugges- 
tion is followed, the covering could be understood as an entourage. 
Thus, a smooth transition with v 5 could be gained by translating the 
troublesome line, "And his mighty ones were there as a covering" 
(i.e., encircling the divine king). So constructed, the thought parallels 
that of Deut 33:2, "He came with myriads of holy ones" (cf. Ps 68:18 
[Heb.]). It is of interest to note that Cross employs the term 33n in 
this passage as a parallel to D'lt'lj? / 'his holy ones.' If this meaning is 
allowed, then perhaps l^^n could be normalized p3n with a meaning 
something like "splendor" (cf. Akkadian ebebu / 'be pure, clean', 
ebbu j 'polished, pure, shining, lustrous'). Hence, the line could be 
read in parallel with the preceding two, "There is the splendor of his 
might." However, since the Deuteronomy passage is beset with great 
difficulty and Cross's own handUng of the text is colored by numerous 
conjectural emendations, this last translation must remain a pure 
conjecture. Hab 3:4/? stands as a crux interpretum. Ultimately, one 
must determine (1) whether the line is best understood as a strict 
parallel to the previous two lines or as transitional between them and 
the two lines that follow, and (2) whether the contextual emphasis 
centers on the frequently stressed idea of the veiled presence of God^, 

See further, R. Patterson, "A Multiplex Approach to Psalm 45," GTJ 6 (1985) 

"See R. L. Smith, Micah-Malachi (Word Biblical Commentary; Waco: Word, 
1984) 112; cf. M. O'Connor, Hebrew Verse Structure (Winona Lake, Eisenbrauns, 
1980) 234. 

^See S. L. Terrien, The Elusive Presence (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1978) 69; 
cf. C. F. Keil, Biblical Commentary on the Minor Prophets (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 
1954)2.99 100. 


or is a literary borrowing of the familiar theme of the divine warrior 
moving amidst his heavenly armies that is adapted for Israelite cultic 
purposes,'*^ or is simply an expression of God's power as manifested 
in the natural world. 

The translation followed here takes this line as parallel to the 
preceding two and views it as primarily a poetic expression of God's 
power in the natural world. The rendering given above is gained by 
separating the 73 from the word and viewing the remaining u;* as a 
relative particle preceded by a pleonastic waw. The resultant tense 
stresses that the brilliant theophany originated in the inner recesses of 
the strength of him who is light (cf. 1 John 1:5). 

Verse Five 

The parallel lines here have often been taken as evidence for 
viewing Debir as an epithet or alternate name of Reshef, the well- 
known Canaanite god of pestilence and sterility." Dahood calls 
attention to the set pairs ]"1i7/D''3D in vv 4-5.'^ O'Connor translates 
V3DV"at his face. "'^ 

Verse Six 

TTD^l has customarily been translated either "he measured" (RSV, 
KJV, NKJV; cf. NASB, "surveyed") or "shook" {NIV; cf. LXX 
saaA-suGri). The inappropriateness of the former meaning has led 
most critical expositors to favor the latter meaning here. Scholars 
have suggested various byforms and alloforms to account for this 
understanding of ITQ: (1) 110 = V^T2 / 'crumble', 'set in reeling mo- 
tion' (Keil), (2) 110 = 113/113 / 'move', (cf. DOO/DIO / 'crumble,' 
Dp3/t:i3 / 'shake' [Margulis]), and (3) Arabic 3^ {mdda) / 'was con- 
vulsed' (Driver). 

Likewise, inn has occasioned several translations: 5ieTaKri / 
'melt' (LXX), "drove asunder" {KJV), "startled" {NASB, NKJV), 
"shook" {RSV), and "made to tremble" {NIV). If the previous line is 
to be rendered "shook," the NIV translation is certainly most appro- 
priate. If the traditional understanding of 110 / 'measure' is retained, 
perhaps a root tur / 'spy out, survey' might be suggested for the form 

'"See F. M. Cross, Jr., Canaanite Myth and Hebrew Epic (Cambridge: Harvard 
University, 1973) 100-105. 

"See W. F. Albright, Yahweh and the Gods of Canaan (Garden City: Doubleday, 
1969) 186. For the proposed Eblaite evidence, see the comments of Dahood in G. 
Pettinato, The Archives of Elba (Garden City: Doubleday, 1981) 296. 

''M. Dahood, "Ugaritic-Hebrew Parallel Paris," in Ras Shamra Parallels, ed. 
Loren R. Fisher and Stan Rummel (Rome: Pontificium Institutum Biblicum, 1972) 

' 'O'Connor, Hebrew Verse Structure. 235. 


here. The force of the following couplet and the dire effects of the 
preceding two probably best favor a translation similar to that of the 
NIV for these two lines. 

1*7 nVli? nlD'''7n. The line is difficult. It has usually been translated 
by the English versions "His ways are everlasting/ eternal." Albright 
suggested that the b of the last word be combined with the first two 
words of V 7 to read ]xnnn'7, thus reading an energic feminine plural 
of Knn with emphatic V.'"* So constructed, the newly constituted line 
would be translated "Eternal orbits were shattered." While this 
suggestion is attractive and involves no consonantal revision, it would 
leave a metrical imbalance in vv 6b and 7, which appear to be formed 
as a 3/3/3 pattern. Further, MT does yield a reasonable sense as "his 
eternal courses." The meaning would be that the ancient hills and 
mountains, now convulsing before the approaching theophany, had 
formed the time-honored paths of God (cf. Amos 4:13). Surely such a 
poetic figure is most apropos for him who is called "The Rider on the 
Clouds" (Ps 68:5 [Heb.]; cf. Isa 19:1) or "He who rides the Heavens" 
(Deut 33:26; cf. Ps 68:34 [Heb.]). The syntax of the line is reminiscent 
of Num 23:22Z>: 1"? nxn hDi7ln3 (cf. Ps 18:8 [Heb.]: iV nnn"'? ^^i^^nn). 

Verse Seven 

The first line of v 7 is another extremely difficult sentence to 
interpret. The line has frequently been taken with the first two words 
of the second line, leaving the last word of line two to be constructed 
with line three. While this makes for a smooth translation, "I saw the 
tents of Cushan in affliction: / And the curtains of the land of Midian 
did tremble (NIV)," it leaves an unusually long pair of lines: 5/4. 
Despite the difficulty of MT, it seems best to retain the more custo- 
mary reading with its 3/3/3 meter. The troublesome pX nnn can be 
translated by the usual "in distress/ affliction," but may perhaps be 
better taken as a geographical name paralleling Cushan and Midian 
in lines two and three. Perhaps it may have been a name employed by 
the Hebrew poet to describe the general area where the enigmatic 
Cushan (= Egyptian Kushu?) and Midian were located, that is, the 
southern part of the broad area that stretched from the Sinai Penin- 
sula northward into Transjordania. If so, the whole verse forms a 
geographic inclusio with v 3.'^ 

'■"Albright, "The Psalm of Habakkuk," 15. 

''Note that nnn appears as a geographical name in Num 33:26, 27. ]1X-type forms 
occur as personal names and geographical names in the OT (e.g., Num 16:1; Ezra 2:33; 
Neh 6:2; 7:37; 11:35; Amos 1:5; cf. Gen 36:23; 38:4, 8, 9, etc.). If pKnnn is to be taken 
as a geographical name, ]1N may be associated with a noun meaning "vigor" or 
"wealth" coming from a second homophonous root to that of the usual noun translated 
"trouble" or "wickedness" or "distress." The easy confusion between the two words 


The presence of ''r\''i<'} here, a source of concern to many com- 
mentators, may be explained by recalling the similar employment of 
this verb in the Balaam oracles (Num 23:9; 24:17). Indeed, the poet 
may have intended a deliberate pun or literary allusion to Num 23:21, 
"He has not seen distress/ wickedness in Jacob; / Nor has he looked 
upon trouble in Israel." 

Verse Eight 

Many have pointed out the familiar Ugaritic parallelism here of 
D^/ini'^ The reason for their employment here is an interpretive 
problem that will be discussed below. '^ Dahood also calls attention to 
the use of nlDSIQ/DlD here.'^ The final noun has been taken as 
standing at the end of a broken construct chain by Freedman.'*^ 

Verse Nine 

The question of whether Ili?ri should be viewed as second mascu- 
line singular or third feminine singular is conditioned by the under- 
standing of the parallel line. Albright decides for the former and 
translates "Bare dost Thou strip Thy bow";^° Keil follows the latter 
course: "Thy bow lays itself bare.""' The second line is particularly 
troublesome. Indeed, Margulis laments, "The second hemistich is 
patently impossible."^' A perusal of the various ancient and modern 
versions, as well as the commentators, shows the difficulties under 
which the translators labored. No consensus as to the translation has 
been reached. Laetsch points out that by his day Delitzsch had 
counted more than one hundred different interpretations of this diffi- 
cult line."^ 

That the divine warrior's weapons are taken in hand is clear from 
the parallel pair ni;'j?/ni30.^'* The use of such special weapons are 

may possibly have been viewed as a literary pun: ]ixnnn / 'wealthy place' is seen as 'in 

'^For example, Cross, Ancient Yahwistic Poetry, 140 and Dahood, "Ugaritic- 
Hebrew Parallel Pairs," 1.203. 

"See below. See further, A. Cooper, "Divine Names and Epithets in the Ugaritic 
Texts," in Ras Shamra Parallels, 3.375. 

'^Dahood, "Ugaritic-Hebrew Parallel Pairs," 1.284; for 331, see Patterson, "Psalm 
45," 37 n. 35. 

"D. N. Freedman, "The Broken Construct Chain," Biblica 53 (1972) 535. 

'"Albright, "The Psalm of Habakkuk," 12. 

^'Keil, Minor Prophets, 2.103. 

"Margulis, "The Psalm of Habakkuk," 420. 

'^T. Laetsch, Bible Commentary: The Minor Prophets (St. Louis: Concordia, 
1956) 347. 

'"See Dahood, "Ugaritic-Hebrew Parallel Pairs," 1.258. The final n in n]D?3 is the 
common Canaanite feminine singular. 


familiar from the literature of the ancient Near East. Thus Ward 
remarks, "Syrian and Hittite art frequently represents Adad-Ramman, 
god of storm, as armed with the same weapons, while the Babylonian 
art gave this western god the forked thunderbolt."^^ Good sense can 
be gained by following Albright's lead in repointing MT nlyDU^ as a 
second masculine singular perfect from i75'lj' (although Albright need- 
lessly takes the following mattot from ESA mtw / 'fight'"^^), yielding a 
rendering that is reminiscent of Anat's fighting as recorded in the Baal 
cycle, "Anat fought hard and gazed (on her work), she battled . . . 
until she was sated, fighting in the palace. . . ." " As for the final nox, 
one may take the word possibly as the name of God's war club, the 
noun coming from a verbal root "["Vp / 'drive out.'^** If so, it could be 
a veiled reflection or scribal pun on Baal's war weapon Aymur 
("Expeller").^^ Perhaps the simplest solution is achieved, however, by 
viewing the final t of mattot as a double duty consonant and translat- 
ing the line "You were satisfied with the club which you com- 
manded. "^° Thus, there is probably a reminiscence of God's promise 
to defend his people as given in Deut 32:40-42. 

Verses Nine-c through Eleven 

The first line (v 9c) has been translated by taking "earth" as 
either the subject or the object of the sentence. Because the second 
masculine singular verbal suflfix is read in the following line, it seems 
best to retain the traditional understanding of V^'^r^ as a second 
masculine singular verb and view "earth" as its object. Earth and 
mountains are found in parallel in several texts commemorating this 
event (e.g., Judg 5:5; Ps 18:8 [Heb.]).^' The scene depicted here is 

"W. H. Ward, Habakkuk {ICC; New York: Scribner's, 1911) 23. See also 
Pauerson, "Psalm 45," 38-39. 

''Albright, "The Psalm of Habakkuk," 15. 

' See G. R. Driver, Canaanite Myths and Legends (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 
1956) 84-85. 

^^See C. Gordon, Ugaritic Textbook (Rome: Pontificium Institutum Biblicum, 
1965) 3.356. 

''Ibid., 2.180. 

'°For the use of double duty consonants, see I. O. Lehman, "A Forgotten Principle 
of Biblical Textual Tradition Rediscovered," JNES 26 (1967) 93; cf. Dahood, Psalms, 
2.81, 3.371. For asyndetic subordination, see R. J. Williams, Hebrew Syntax (Toronto: 
Toronto University, 1976) 90; Dahood, Psalms, 3.426-27; and A. B. Davidson, Hebrew 
Syntax (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1958) 191-92. For the corresponding Akkadian 
construction, see W. von Soden, Grundriss des akkadischen Grammatik (Rome: 
Pontificium Institutum Biblicum, 1952) 219. 

^'Several other parallel terms common to Ugaritic and Hebrew have been sug- 
gested as present here by Dahood, "Ugaritic-Hebrew Parallel Pairs," 1.177-78, 218, 
372-73: 57n/T, pVNtt'a, Dinn/Vlp (although LXX may be right in finding the parallel 

of mnn as mn). 


recounted in detail also in Pss 18:8-16 (Heb.); 77:17-19 (Heb.); and 
144:5-6 (cf. Judg 5:4-5). 

The lack of metrical balance at the end of v 10 and the beginning 
of V 1 1 has occasioned several suggestions as to the division of the 
lines. Dahood takes mn with the first line of v lOb and reads "The 
abyss gave forth its haughty voice. "^' Albright takes the ^Tpp of v 1 1 
with V 10 and translates "The Exalted One, Sun, raised its arms."" 
The translation adopted here takes ny''Q^7^'0 as one composite name, 
formed perhaps as a result of a deletion transformation so as to 
achieve the desired three poetic lines. The juxtaposition of sun and 
moon participating in earthly events is noted elsewhere (e.g.. Josh 
10:12-13; Isa 13:10; Joel 2:10; 3:4, etc.). The words are, of course, 
familiar set terms. ^"^ 

Smith calls attention to the fact that VsT used here for the 
dwelling place for the sun and moon, is usually reserved for the 
"exalted dwelling place of God."^^ Since sun and moon are reported 
as being among the heavenly retinue, they may also be viewed as 
being where God dwells. ^^ 

Verse Twelve 

The parallel pair DyT/i^X appears elsewhere of God's indignation 
against his enemies (e.g., Isa 30:27). Especially instructive is Isa 10:5 
where not only is this pair found, but ni50 (Hab 3:9) also appears: 
"Woe to the Assyrian, the rod of my anger, in whose hand is the club 
of my wrath." For X^^ employed for God's going out to fight on 
behalf of his people, see Judg 5:4 and Isa 42:13. 

Verse Thirteen 

■nx may be another example of an intrusive element within a 
construct chain. ^' Pusey, however, translates it as the preposition 

^^M. Dahood, "The Phoenician Contribution to BibHcal Wisdom Literature," in 
The Role of the Phoenicians in the Interaction of Mediterranean Civilizations, ed. 
William A. Ward (Beirut: American University of Beirut, 1968) 140. 

"Albright, "The Psalm of Habakkuk," 12. 

^""For the use of fixed pairs of set terms, see S. Gervirtz, Patterns in the Early 
Poetry of Israel (Chicago: Oriental Institute, 1963) 2-4, 10-14; and Y. Avishur, "Word 
Pairs Common to Phoenician and Biblical Hebrew," UF 7 (1975) 13-47, esp. p. 19. 
Note, however, the caution of P. C. Craigie, "Parallel Words in the Song of Deborah," 
JETS 20 (1977) 15-22. For the participation of other celestial phenomena in earthly 
events, see Judg 5:20; Isa 60:19-20 and the remarks of P. C. Craigie, "Three Ugaritic 
Notes on the Song of Deborah," JSOT2 (1977) 33-49. 

"Smith, Micah-Malachi, 114. 

"See the discussion of J. Gamberoni, TDOT 4.29-3l\ see also H. Wolf, TWOT 

"Freedman, "The Broken Construct Chain," 535, remarks, "The meaning must be: 
'for the salvation of your people/for the salvation of your anointed.' Apparently the 


"with," while Dahood suggests that VOrb / 'for the salvation of be 
repointed to read ^_p''b / 'to save' (= a yiphil infinitive construct), a 
suggestion apparently followed by NIV. The following "nx would 
thus become an expanded accusative particle after a causative verbal 

The term "^rfli^Q / 'your anointed,' has been taken as referring 
either to the nation Israel (Ewald, Hitzig), Israel's Davidic king (R. 
Smith; cf. 2 Sam 23:1), or to the Messiah (Hailey, Keil, Laetsch, Von 
Orelli). The problem is largely an interpretive one. If the reference is 
primarily historical and has in view the era of the exodus and wilder- 
ness wanderings, the term must refer to Moses. Although "your 
anointed" seemingly forms a parallel to "your people," Israel is not 
elsewhere called by this term. Rather, "the anointed" is customarily 
reserved for individuals such as the high priest or the king (note also 
Cyrus, Isa 45:1). If Moses is intended, Pusey may be right in suggest- 
ing that the nx is to be taken as the preposition "with" (cf. Lat. Vg. in 
salutem cum Christo tuo), for God promised Moses that he would be 
with him (Josh 1:5; note, however, that the preposition there is Di7)." 

Verses Thirteen-b through Fourteen-a 

The three lines here have occasioned several difficulties, chief of 
which is the figure involved. Does God's smiting refer to the wicked 
enemy (Margulis), a mythological figure (Albright, Smith), or the 
enemy nation or armies viewed here under the figure of a house 
(Keil)? Since, as Cassuto points out, the verb f no is commonly used 
in both Ugaritic and the OT to signify a blow that the divine warrior 
gives to his enemies, it seems best to translate the three lines as 
rendered in my translation given above (cf. NIV).'^^ Such an under- 
standing does away with the need for finding yet another broken 
construct chain in the first line as suggested by Freedman.'*' 

second phrase is a construct chain, like the first, except that the intrusive ^t has been 
inserted between the construct and the absolute. Exactly what the ^t is it may be 
difficult to say: it may be the emphasizing particle, normally used to identify the 
definite direct object of a verb (here of the action), or it may be the pronoun written 
defectively, used here to call attention to the pronominal suffix attached to the follow- 
ing noun." For added discussion as to the broken construct chain, see A. C. M. 
Blommerde, "The Broken Construct Chain, Further Examples," Biblica, 55 (1974) 549- 
52. For a negative appraisal of the whole concept, see J. D. Price, "Rosh: An Ancient 
Land Known to Ezekiel," G77 6 (1985) 79-88. 

^*For details, see E. B. Pusey, The Minor Prophets (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1953) 
2.217; and M. Dahood, "Two Yiphil Causatives in Habakkuk 3, 13a," OR 48 (1979) 

^*For the interchange of ns and DV, see H. D. Preuss, TDOT, 1.449-58. 

''"See U. Cassuto, Biblical and Oriental Studies, trans. Israel Abrahams (Jerusalem: 
Magnes, 1973) 1.268. 

"'Freedman, "The Broken Construct Chain," 535. 


nliy is doubtless to be construed as an infinitive absolute detail- 
ing the extended activity of the main verb."*^ 

Verse Fourteen 

The last three lines of v 14 are exceedingly obscure. The position 
taken here suggests that there are three Hues of text in a 2/3/3 pattern 
rather than the two lines of 3/4 as traditionally rendered. Key to the 
understanding is the dividing of '3;j''3nV into two words: flD / 'scatter' 
and y'?^ / 'humble' by viewing the 'li as another example of a double 
duty consonant. The resultant translation yields not only better sense, 
but delivers a nice parallel between ^"'3^ / 'humble' and ""^y / 'poor.' 
So construed, T'^'^i would take its place alongside such words as fl'^X 
in contexts with "'jy.''^ 

Verse Fifteen 

For the figure of God treading upon the sea, see Ps 77:20 (Heb.). 
■^I'Dno is an adverbial accusative absolute which, in compressed lan- 
guage, complements the action of the main verb and governs the 
sense of the following line. The preposition of line one is also to be 
understood in the second line.'*'* 


Grammatical Features 

The basic literary dichotomy between chaps. 1 and 2 and 3:3-15 
has already been noted (see above). The data that support the archaic 
nature of 3:3-15 are presented here. First, it may be noted that there 
are numerous cases of defective spelling in the interior of words, as 
pointed out by Albright.'*^ Next may be gathered the various archaic 
grammatical elements and poetic devices that occur: (1) the lack of 
the definite article throughout these verses, (2) the /-form imperfect 
used with duals or collectives (v 4), (3) the use of the old pronominal 

See further, Williams, Hebrew Syntax, 38-39; and M. Hammershaimb, "On the 
So-called Infinitivus Absolutus in Hebrew," in Hebrew and Semitic Studies Presented 
to Godfrey Rolles Driver, ed. D. Winton Thomas and W. D. McHardy (Oxford: 
Clarendon, 1963) 85-93. 

■"Suitable parallels can be found in Pss 10:2, 8-10; 35:10; Prov 30:14, etc. 

''''For details, see Dahood, Psalms, 3.436. 

"^Albright, "The Psalm of Habakkuk," 10. Albright also suggests the presence of 
an old energic form with emphatic b in vv 6-7: 1KnnnV/'(eternal orbits) were shattered.' 
It should also be noted that E. Wiirthwein, The Text of the Old Testament (4th ed.; 
Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1979) 114-15, follows the lead of K. Ellinger in translating 
the troublesome crux as the Ugaritic word for destruction preceded by the preposition 
v. However, see the discussion above in n. 15. 


suffix in n (vv 4, 1 1), (4) the employment of enclitic -m (v 8)/^ (5) the 
frequent appearance of the old preterite prefix conjugation verb (vv 
3-5, 7-12, 14) in variation with the suffix conjugation, (6) the use of 
the V of possession in inverted predicate position in a non-verbal 
sentence (v 6), and (7) the use of structured tri-cola employing climac- 
tic parallelism (vv 4, 6b, 7, 8^, 10, 11, \3b) to mark major divisions 
{6b-l, 8) or subdivisions (vv 4, 10a, 11, 13^-14) within the poem. 

As well, one may notice the use of parallel expressions and set 
terms held in common in Ugaritic and the corpus of old Hebrew 
poetry: fix/D^;?^ (v 3), D""??/]"!.!? (w 4-5), nVli? nli/n^i/iy-n-in (v 6), 
D^/nm, n33l;2/DiD (v 8), n^o/niyi? (v 9), 'rlp/Dlnri, x'u^j/jnj (v io), and 
nvj'^^p, Pl^/rn (v 11). Also to be noted is the utilization of a 
vocabulary commonly found in older poetic material in the OT: nlVx, 

iz^nj?, n^?'"'i^' ^^-W (v 3), mn (v 6), nx, nn (v 7), ^x, 351 (v 8), d^q 
(DiT), Dlnn, "rip (v 10), ^x (v 12), ni30, u?xi, ns (v 14), and D'ai d?o, 

Literary Features 

No less significant is the presence of several themes common to 
the body of Ugaritic and early OT poetic literature: (1) the Lord's 
movement from the southland (v 3); cf. Deut 33:1-2; Judg 5:4; Ps 
68:8 [Heb.]), (2) the presence of the heavenly assemblage (v 5; cf. 
Deut 33:2-3), (3) the shaking of the terrestrial and celestial worlds at 
God's presence (vv 6, 10-11; cf. Judg 5:4-5; Pss 18:8-9, 13-15 [Heb.]; 
68:34 [Heb]; 77:17-19 [Heb.]; 144:5-6), (4) the Lord's anger against 
sea and river (v 8; cf. Exod 15:8; Ps 18:8, 16 [Heb.]), (5) the Lord's 
presence riding the clouds (v 8; cf. Exod 15:4; Pss 18:11-12 [Heb.]; 
68:5, 34 [Heb.]), (6) the fear of the enemy at the Lord's advance (w 7, 
10?; cf. Exod 15:14-16; Pss 18:8 [Heb.]; 77:17-19 [Heb.]), and (7) 
the Lord's fighting against the boastful (v 14; cf. Exod 15:9) enemy 
(vv 9, 11, 13-14; cf. Exod 15:3, 6; Ps 77:18 [Heb.]) so as to deliver his 
people (vv 13-15; cf. Pss 18:38-39, 41 [Heb.]; 68:8 [Heb.] with Exod 
15:10, 12-13).'^ 

"^For enclitic -m, see M. Pope, "Ugaritic Enclitic -wi," JCS 5 (1951) 123-28; H. D. 
Hummel, "Enclitic MEM in Early Northwest Semitic, Especially Hebrew," JBL 76 
(1957) 85-106; and Dahood, Psalms, 3.408-9. 

For the bearing of Ugaritic research upon biblical studies see P. C. Craigie, 
Ugarit and the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1983) 67-90, and his exten- 
sive bibliography, pp. 107-9. For the corpus of ancient OT poetry, see below. 

■•^See further Albright, "The Psalm of Habakkuk," 8-9; idem, Yahweh and the 
Gods of Canaan, 1-52, 183 93; Cassuto, Biblical and Oriental Studies, 2.3-15, 16-59, 
69 109; S. Rummel, "Narrative Structures in the Ugaritic Texts," in Ras Shamra 
Parallels, 3.233-84; and Cross, Canaanite Myth and Hebrew Epic, 91-194. 


Historical! Theological Features 

Having noted the archaic nature of the Unguistic evidence con- 
cerning Hab 3:3-15, it is necessary to inquire further concerning 
historical and theological data that can be analyzed to help in 
ascertaining the setting of Habakkuk's psalmic material. The his- 
torical information is minimal, consisting of the notice of God's 
leading Israel (v 3) in her movement from the Transjordanian south — 
an advance that brought consternation to that entire area (v 7). The 
era involved in these verses, then, is obviously that of the period 
surrounding the exodus and Mount Sinai revelation and the move- 
ment to the Jordan River. This is further confirmed by the notice of 
the victory at the Red Sea (vv 14-15). Other possible historical 
reminiscences have been suggested for some of the intervening verses, 
such as the crossing of the Jordan or the Battle of Ta'^anach (com- 
memorated in Deborah's Song in Judges 5), but certainty is lacking in 
either of these proposals. It must be pointed out, however, that even 
though the time frame envisioned in these verses is that of the exodus 
and Israel's early movement toward the Land of Promise, the highly 
figurative nature of the poetry does not allow a precise identification 
as to the time of its original composition. 

Much can be said with regard to theological data. Certainly the 
omnipotence and self-revelation of the invisible God of the universe 
are taught here. As well, his sovereign control of the physical world 
and his direct intervention into the historical affairs of mankind are in 
evidence. Moreover, his redemption of and continuing care for his 
people are distinctly underscored. However, because such theological 
information is found in many places in the OT, these data are not 
decisive in determining the date of the original composition of these 
verses. Nevertheless, the fact that the historical reflections and theo- 
logical viewpoint are consistent with and, indeed, are dominant in the 
other early literature that forms parallels with these verses, and the 
fact that the grammatical and literary data are like those that are 
found in the early poetry of Israel argue for the presumption that 
these verses belong to that same literary cycle and commemorate the 
same occasion. If not written in the same era as the other poetic 
material and handed down to the prophet's day, the poetry found in 
Habakkuk's prophecy here is at least written in a consciously archais- 
tic manner. The utilization of earlier traditional material is cham- 
pioned by Cassuto;''^ an archaistic style is favored by Albright. ^'^ 

I am convinced that Cassuto's position is essentially correct and 
that the substance of Habakkuk's poetry, though doubtless reworked 

"''Cassuto, Biblical and Oriental Studies, 2.73. 
'"Albright, "The Psalm of Habakkuk," 9. 


by the prophet in accordance with the musical standards demanded 
for its employment in the cultus, was directly part of a living epic 
material handed down since the days of the exodus and its related 
events and, under divine inspiration, was incorporated by Habakkuk 
into his prophecy. 


The Question of Literary Genre 

It has been assumed to this point that the material in Hab 3:3-15 
is epic in nature. The justification for this classification must now be 
considered. An epic is a long narrative poem that recounts heroic 
actions, usually connected with a nation's or people's golden age. As 
such, epic forms a distinct substratum within the class of heroic 
narrative.^' Epic literature usually finds its unifying factor in a central 
hero whose courageous, wise, altruistic, and virtuous actions are 
intended to be exemplary to subsequent generations. Thus, Ing 

Its heroic nature is its prime essential and there is one meaning of 
"heroic" which remains constant throughout all local and temporal 
variations: the heroic standard of conduct means that a man cares for 
something beyond his own material welfare and is prepared to sacrifice 
for it comfort, safety and life itself; and his care for this "something" is 

It is, therefore, highly didactic in purpose. 

Stylistically, the exalted theme(s) and didactic material call forth 
the highest efforts of the poet so that the language and expressions 
become lofty in tone, or as Ryken puts it, "a consciously exalted 
mode of expression that removes the language from the common- 
place."" To accomplish this goal, the poet makes special use of static 
epithets, standardized literary formulae, and a body of set terms that 
are not just easily memorized but are particularly designed to achieve 
a distinct effect commensurate with his purposes. Nilsson observes. 

In the epical language of all peoples occurs a store of stock 
expressions, constantly recurring phrases, half and whole verses and 
even verse complexes; and repetitions are characteristic of the epic 
style. . . . The singer has a large store of poetical parts ready, and his 
art consists in coordinating these parts according to the course of 

See L. Ryken, The Literature of the Bible (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1974) 8L 
"C. M. Ing, "Epic," in Cassell's Encyclopaedia of Literature, ed. S. H. Steinberg 
(London: Cassell & Company, 1953) 1.195-200. 
"Ryken, The Literature of the Bible, 81. 


events and connecting them by the aid of new-made verses. A skilled 
poet is able to improvise a poem on every subject/'' 

Accordingly, the epic poet's vocabulary is carefully drawn to 
emphasize such qualities as: magnificence and grandeur, awe-inspiring 
might and greatness, munificence and generosity, virility and valor, 
piety and wisdom, and a strong sense of personal commitment even 
to the point of complete self-sacrifice. Commensurate with these 
idealized qualities, the epic plot is usually sublimated to the character 
of its hero. The action of the narrative, while filled with such things as 
exciting adventures, perilous wanderings, and colossal battles, is 
nonetheless usually merely an instrument of focusing on the hero 
himself whose laudatory conduct both emphasizes the significance of 
life's quest and provides for future generations a model for the 
challenges experienced by all men. Tillyard comments. 

The epic writer must express the feelings of a large group of 
people living in or near his own time. The notion that the epic is 
primarily patriotic is an unduly narrowed version of this require- 
ment. . . . The epic must communicate the feeling of what it was like to 
be alive at the time." 

The hero, then, is man written large. 

The structure of epic is often like a great arch through which on 
one side the past may be seen, on the other the future. . . . While epic 
raises its figures to astounding heroic stature, it never makes them 
strange by eccentricity. They may be giants but they retain the form 
and blood of the family of man.^*' 

In turning to the epic literature of the classical world, certainly 
this feature is central in the Homeric epics. As Flaceliere points out. 

Homer bequeathed to future generations the ideal type of Greek man 
(if we accept subtlety and a tendency to deception as part of such a 
character); and perhaps the ideal type of all men (provided one regards 
as a virtue prudence, which, in cases of extremity, is not above lying)." 

To be sure. Homer's heroes play out their earthly roles in the face of 
a heavenly family of deities whose own selfishness often causes them 

^''M. p. Nilsson, The Mycenaean Origin of Greek Mythology (New York: Norton, 
1932) 19. 

"E. M. W. Tillyard, The EngUsh Epic and Its Background (New York: Oxford 
University, 1966) 12. 

"ing, "Epic," 1.197. 

"R. Flaceliere, A Literary History of Greece, trans. Douglas Garman (Chicago: 
Aldine, 1964) 38. 


to intervene on the stage of man's affairs in a capricious and cruel 
manner.^* Nevertheless, this time-honored struggle^^ was all to man's 
own betterment, for the harshness of life brought on by the heavenly 
fates provided man with a training ground for keeping in proper 
tension^*^ the twin virtues of heroism and obedience on the one hand, 
and an often violent virility blended at times with a touching tender- 
ness on the other. The balanced man must learn to live the full life of 
human potential. 

In the midst of the catastrophes decreed by the gods, the best men 
are capable of great actions, though at the cost of infinite affliction. . . . 
Thus Homer sets before the Greeks the twofold ideal of the hero-sage. 
In his two poems he exalts the clear-sighted energy of men who, 
without illusions, struggle with their tragic destinies, with no real and 
constant help save what they find in themselves, in "the greatness of 
their hearts".''' 

Much of this was passed on to the classical Latin world where it 
was reshaped to fit the Roman mold. Hadas shows that Vergil "crowns 
his work and Latin literature with an epic which would be inconceiv- 
able without the models of Iliad and Odyssey. "^^ It was the latter epic 
that had the place of prominence for the great Latin poet, for 

there were familiar elements sure to appeal to the Roman — the spec- 
tacle of endurance in the face of danger, the love of home, the fear of 
the gods, the sombre religious associations with the lower world. 
Odysseus was a hero more after the Roman heart than Achilles, and 
Virgil shows this in his modelling of Aeneas." 

'''See Flaceliere's extended discussion, ibid., 46-50. See also, H. C. Baldry, Ancient 
Greek Literature in Its Living Context (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1968) 18-23. 

''^Nilsson, The Mycenaean Origin of Greek Mythology, 12-34, points out that 
Homer was an heir to a heroic tradition that stretched back to the Middle Helladic Age 
of Mycenae. D. Page, History and the Homeric Iliad {Berkeley: University of California, 
1963) demonstrates that there is an essential core of historical trustworthiness as to the 
Mycenaean Age in the Homeric Iliad. Note, for example, his extended discussions on 
pp. 134-47 and pp. 218-96. 

*°W. C. Stephens, ed.. The Spirit of the Classical World (New York: Capricorn, 
1967), 14, remarks, "The gods were in charge of life — there was no doubt of that — and 
man could expect to suffer a good deal from them. But the Greeks combined this 
attitude with an intense joy in living, for they did not regard themselves as playthings 
of a despotic destiny. They were shapers of their own lives, within a framework set by 
the gods, and took a fierce pride in human accomplishments even while they recognized 
their vulnerability. It is this tension which makes Greek tragedy the profound and 
moving form of art it is." 

^'Flaceliere, A Literary History of Greece, 59. 

*^M. Hadas, A History of Latin Literature (New York: Columbia University, 

'''j. W. Duff, A Literary History of Rome, ed. A. M. Duff (3rd ed.; London: 
Ernest Benn, 1953)91. 


However, Vergil's genius may be seen in his psychologically pene- 
trating advance on the concept of heroism. Thus, Bowra rightly 
points out. 

In the Aeneid Vergil presented a new ideal of heroism and showed 
in what fields it could be exercised. The essence of his conception is 
that a man's virtus is shown less in battle and physical danger than in 
the defeat of his own weaknesses.*'" 

Still further, Vergil emphasized that man's virtus became perfected 
not only through courage, cunning, and the conquest of self, but 
through suffering: 

Vergil . . . has a profound sympathy for suffering and sorrow and 
a conviction that it is through suffering that man reaches the depths of 
religious experience. It is through sacrifice and suffering that ultimate 
triumph is to be achieved." 

With all this Vergil's writings begin to take on a spiritual quality that 
at times approaches Christian perspective, especially as seen in his 
famous Fourth Eclogue. Hadas observes. 

This poem has been more widely discussed than any piece of 
similar length in classical literature. In language reminiscent of Scrip- 
ture the poet prophesies the birth of a boy whose rule will usher in a 
golden age of peace. Since Constantine and Augustine, Christian writers 
have regarded the Eclogue as a prophecy of the Messiah. More prob- 
ably the reference is to the child expected by Octavian and Scribonia, 
who proved to be a girl, the infamous Julia, or possibly to a child of 
Antony and Octavia, or to Pollio's own son. But if the prophecy 
cannot refer to Jesus, the notion of an expected redeemer may quite 
likely derive from the hopeful speculations of the Jews on the subject. ^^ 

When one turns to the ancient Near Eastern world, he also 
encounters epic material. Kramer counts no less than nine epics in 
ancient Sumer. However, as Kramer points out, distinct differences 
exist between the Sumerian epic and its classical counterparts. 

"C. M. Bowra, From Vergil to Milton (New York: St. Martin's, 1967) 84. 

*^M. Hadas, A History of Latin Literature, 154. 

^^Ibid., 144. Cyrus Gordon, "Vergil and the Near East," Ugaritica K/ (Paris: Paul 
Geuthner, 1969) 277, suggests that "by Vergil's time the Jews of Italy must have 
cultivated messianism in the heart of the Roman Empire, where they influenced 
Romans of Vergil's generation." There was also a growing sense of apocalyptic in 
Vergil, a theme for which he was perhaps indebted to the widespread appearance of 
apocalypses in the centuries surrounding the advent of the Christian era. Messianism 
and apocalyptic were blended together by Vergil who had a great feeling for the destiny 
of Rome in general and for the key role of Augustus in particular. 


The Sumerian epic poems consist of individual disconnected tales of 
varying length, each of which is restricted to a single episode. There is 
no attempt to articulate and integrate these episodes into a larger unit. 
There is relatively little characterization and psychological penetration 
in the Sumerian material. The heroes tend to be broad types, more or 
less undifferentiated, rather than highly personalized individuals. More- 
over, the incidents and plot motifs are related in a rather static and 
conventionalized style; there is little of that plastic, expressive move- 
ment that characterizes such poems as Homer's Iliad and Odyssey. 
Mortal women play hardly any role in Sumerian epic literature, whereas 
they have a very prominent part in Indo-European epic literature. 
Finally, in the matter of technique, the Sumerian poet gets his rhythmic 
effects primarily from variations in the repetition patterns. He makes 
no use whatever of the meters or uniform line so characteristic of Indo- 
European epics.*^ 

Kramer adds that the Sumerian narratives doubtless influenced the 
literatures of the peoples around them so that the Sumerian epic 
probably formed the precursor to the later classical and western 
epics. ^^ Be that as it may, a direct transmission to the Semitic world 
can be shown, most notably in the case of the famous Gilgamesh Epic 
of ancient Babylon which was drawn largely from several earlier 
Sumerian stories. Important for the present discussion is the fact that 
the Gilgamesh Epic is replete with many themes and elements common 
to epic literature in general. It focuses on a central hero whose deeds 
and fortunes are praised. It tells of his wisdom and strength, rehears- 
ing his dangerous journeys during which his courageous strength in 
the face of great odds is demonstrated, often in the presence of hostile 
heavenly intervention. It, too, has a universalistic and timeless tone, 
for it grapples with the perennial problems of life itself: life's frailty, 
the relation of life to death and the afterlife, and how best to make 
the most of this life despite its sufferings. As Heidel writes, "Finally, 
the epic takes up the question as to what course a man should follow 

S. N. Kramer, The Sumerians (Chicago: Chicago University, 1963) 184-85. 
**The vastness of Sumerian connections in the ancient world has been demon- 
strated repeatedly. See, for example, the discussion of H. W. F. Saggs, The Greatness 
that was Babylon (New York: Hawthorn, 1962) 271-92; and E. Yamauchi, Greece and 
Babylon (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1967) 26-32. In another connection, H. W. F. Saggs, 
The Encounter with the Divine in Mesopotamia and Israel (London: Athlone, 1978) 6, 
remarks, "Historically, it is difficult to accept a total absence of continuum in concep- 
tual links between ancient Mesopotamia and the present." The established fact of 
cultural interrelations between Sumer and the Near Eastern and Mediterranean worlds 
predisposes at least a case for a literary interplay as well. A literary link between the 
classical and Near Eastern civilizations has been pled by C. H. Gordon, Ugarit and 
Minoan Crete (New York: Norton, 1966); idem. Before the Bible (New York: Harper & 
Row, 1962); and idem, The World of the Old Testament (Garden City: Doubleday, 
1958), 101-12. 


in view of these hard facts. The solution it offers is simple: 'Enjoy 
your life and make the best of it!'"^*^ 

The epic was also alive in ancient Syro-Palestine, as attested by 
the Ugaritic literature. Prominence of place must be given to the 
KRT Epic and the Epic of Aqhat. The former deals with heroism in 
the royal house and has a theme in some ways akin to the Helen of 
Troy motif of the Iliad. The latter tells of the fortunes of Aqhat and 
his son Danel at the hands of the goddess Anat. Although both epics 
lack the scope and psychological penetration of the classical epics and 
do not specifically formulate questions about the eternal issues of life, 
nonetheless they do wrestle with the problems of coping with the 
vicissitudes of this life, particularly in the face of the divine presence.™ 
As well, they share motifs common both to the classical and Near 
Eastern literatures so that Gordon can say, "It should thus be ap- 
parent that Ugarit has the most intimate connections with the Old 
Testament in language and literature. At the same time, Ugarit has 
close Aegean connections."^' 

The point of all of this is not necessarily to demonstrate any 
distinct interaction of a particular epic between the Near East and the 
classical, western traditions, but simply to show that the epic was a 
widespread literary experience in the ancient world. ^^ Accordingly, it 
would seem only natural that the Hebrews would be partakers of that 
genre. Biblical critics have suggested that such is certainly the case. 
Gordon finds much traditional epic material in the OT and is espe- 
cially attracted to the concept of royal epic as it appears in the 
patriarchal narratives. ^^ Ryken, however, classifies the patriarchal 

*'A. Heidel, The Gilgamesh Epic and Old Testament Parallels (2nd ed.; Chicago: 
Chicago University, 1949) 12. The Gilgamesh Epic is also known from Hittite and 
Human tablets. 

Most scholars suggest that the struggles of Baal against Yam and Mot also 
comprise an epic cycle. Particularly important parallels exist between Hab 3:3-15 and 
the Ugaritic material. See Gordon, Ugaritic Textbook, 2.169-74, 178-80 (texts 51, 67, 

^'Gordon, Ugarit and Minoan Crete, 28. 

'"Although consideration of the epic in ancient India is beyond the parameters of 
this paper, it should be noted that the epic made a significant contribution to the 
literary tradition of the classical period. Two primary epics, both of which experienced 
varying recensions and interpolations, are attested: the Mahabharata which traced the 
account of the bloody battle between the Kauravas and its bloody aftermath, including 
the adventures of the five sons of Pandu; and the Ramayana, which celebrated the 
heroic deeds and adventures of Rama, the virtuous prince of Ayodhya. For details, see 
Vincent Smith, The Oxford History of India (3rd ed.; Oxford: Clarendon, 1958) 55-60; 
and A. L. Basham, The Wonder that was India (2nd ed.; New York: Hawthorn, 1963) 

"See Gordon, Before the Bible, 285. Gordon earlier (pp. 101-12) suggests that 
Hebrew literature followed a pure format in its epic style due to its connection with 
Egypt. N. Frye, Anatomy of Criticism (New York: Atheneum, 1968) 315-20, remarks 
that, in a sense, the whole Bible is epic, especially the Christian message. 


accounts as belonging to the wider genre of heroic narrative, with 
which he also includes the stories of Daniel, Gideon, David, Ruth, 
and Esther. He restricts biblical epic to the exodus event. 

There is only one biblical story that is in the running for consideration 
as an epic. It is what I shall call the Epic of the Exodus, which occupies 
parts of the biblical books of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and 
Deuteronomy. The main narrative sections are as follows: Exodus 1- 
20, 32-34; Numbers 10-14, 16-17, 20-24; Deuteronomy 32-34.^^ 

Cassuto likewise decides for the presence of epic tradition in the OT, 
relating it particularly to the older poetry. 

The Hebrew literature . . . continues the literary tradition that had 
already become crystallized among the Canaanite population before 
the people of Israel came into being, just as there survives in the 
Hebrew tongue, with certain dialectal variations, the most ancient 
Canaanite idiom." 

Cassuto is careful to point out, however, that a fully developed epic 
poem does not exist in the OT canon. What is found, rather, are 
poetic remnants of what must have been a once extensive epic 

When we have regard to the fact that the relevant passages depict the 
events in poetic colours and expressions, and that in the main these 
phrases are stereotyped, recurring verbatim in quite a number of 
different verses, ... it follows that these legends were not handed down 
orally in a simple prosaic speech, which was liable to variations, but 
assumed a fixed, traditional, poetic aspect. . . . This poetic form was 
specifically epic in character. '*' 

On the whole, one must agree with Cassuto. For certainly the 
basic epic standard that such a work must be a long narrative poem is 
nowhere met in the OT. Nevertheless, the primary importance of the 
exodus itself and the prevalence of the exodus motif, as well as the 
poetic reproduction of that event in various places in the OT, make it 
highly likely that Israel, like its neighbors, sang the praises of a past 
great era in epic fashion." The epic remnants scattered throughout 

'"Ryken, The Literature of the Bible, 81. 

"Cassuto, Biblical and Oriental Studies, 2.70. 

''Ibid., 73. 
Hummel, The Word Becoming Flesh, 70, observes, "The exodus event is the 
heart of the Old Testamem 'gospel,' and the word 'redeem' comes to be forever bound 
to it." To this may be added the remarks of O. T. Allis, The Old Testament: Its Claims 
and Its Critics (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1972) 267, "The deliverance from Egyptian 
bondage is the most important, as it is the most spectacular redemptive event in the 


the OT render it possible also that the details of the exodus once 
existed in full epic form. If that was not in classical format, it was, at 
least, in the traditional style of the familiar Near Eastern heroic cycle. 

Literary Dependence 

At this point two further problems surface. (1) If it can be shown 
that Habakkuk's material is of epic quality, belonging to a corpus of 
epic poetry, can the full range of that epic material be determined or 
the original poem itself be recovered? (2) If that poem can be re- 
covered and if it may be safely assumed that Israel was a full partici- 
pant in the ancient Near Eastern Mediterranean milieu, was its epic 
drawn from and/ or dependent upon any Near Eastern precursors? 

The question of the content of the proposed Hebrew epic rests 
on an examination of those poems that sing of the era and events of 
Israel's exodus from Egypt and contain the same grammatical and 
literary features. To Hab 3:3-15 may be added: Exod 15:1-18; Deut 
33:1-3; Judg 5:4-5; Pss 18:8-16 (Heb.); 68:8-9 (Heb.); 77:17-20 
(Heb.); and 144:5-6. Two of these passages, Hab 3:3-15 and Exod 
15:1-18, contain extended portrayals of the exodus experience. 

Like Habakkuk's psalm, Exod 15:1-18 gives a detailed discus- 
sion of the era of the exodus, first singing of the exodus itself and 
Yahweh's victory at the Red Sea (vv 1-10) and then praising the Lord 
for his divine leading, first to Mount Sinai (vv 11-13) and then 
proleptically from Sinai to the Promised Land (vv 14-18). 

Habakkuk adds considerable information to this event. In these 
verses one can observe that there are actually two compositions, each 
of which makes its own contribution to the corpus of the exodus epic. 
That there are two poems here can be seen both from their differing 
themes and the syntax of the respective material. Hab 3:3-7 describes 
God's leading of his heavenly and earthly hosts from the south in an 
awe-inspiring mighty theophany. It is marked structurally by the 
repeated use of the coordinator waw to tie together its thought 
associations. Hab 3:8-15 comprises a victory song commemorating 
the conquest itself and points to the basis of that success in the 
exodus event, particularly in the victory at the Red Sea. Structurally, 
no waw coordinator is used, thought associations being accomplished 
via variations in sentence structure, including change of word order 
and the skillful employment of poetic tricola. 

Both portions, however, tell of the same era and sing of the 
unfolding drama of the exodus event and in so doing employ epic 

history of Israel. Together with the events leading up to it, it is described in detail in 
Exodus 3-15 and referred to a hundred or more times in the rest of the Old 


themes and style. Thus, there is the central focus on a hero — God 
himself. Moreover, in the first poem (vv 3-7) the poet relates the 
account of an epic journey, here God's leading of his people from the 
southland toward Canaan, the land of promise. He calls particular 
attention to God's command of nature in awesome theophany (vv 
3-4), his special companions (v 5), his earthshaking power (v 6), and 
the effect of all of this on the inhabitants of the land (v 7). 

The second poem (vv 8-15) transcends the general bounds of the 
movement from Egypt to the Jordan (cf. Ps 1 14:3-5), the phraseology 
being best understood as including God's miraculous acts in the 
conquest period as well. God's victories at the end of the exodus 
account are rehearsed first (vv 8-11), possibly reflecting such deeds as 
the triumph at the Red Sea (Exodus 15) and at the Jordan (Joshua 
3-4), as well as the victories at the Wadi Kishon (Judges 4-5) and 
Gibeon (Joshua 10). The poet then directs his hearers' attention to the 
basic victory that gave Israel its deliverance and eventual conquest of 
Canaan — the triumph in Israel's exodus from Egypt (vv 12-15). That 
the singing of these two epic songs was designed for the listeners' 
response in submission to Israel's Redeemer can be seen in Habak- 
kuk's own reaction to them (vv 16-19). 

Likewise, epic elements can be seen in these two poems in the 
stylistic employment of literary features common to epic genre: the 
use of static epithets, set parallel terms, and the utilization of a 
vocabulary and themes common to the commemoration of the exodus 
event. ^^ In both subject matter and literary style, Habakkuk's twofold 
psalm deserves to be recognized as epic remnant. 

When one considers both of the major passages concerning the 
exodus (Exod 15:1-18; Hab 3:3-15) together with the reflections of 
that event in other fragmentary portions, it is clear that the primary 
emphasis of the epic cycle is on the deliverance out of Egypt and that 
all other happenings that follow, including the conquest, are intri- 
cately tied to it. Thus the whole movement from Egypt to Canaan 
forms one grand exodus event. Seen in this way it may be possible to 
sketch at least in shadowy form something of the substance of that 
once great epic concerning Israel's exodus out of Egypt and eventual 
entrance in triumph into Canaan through the might of its divine hero 
and victor, God himself. 

The following outline of themes and their source passages may 
thus be tentatively proposed. 

I. The Exodus Experience: The Redeemer's redemption of his people (Exod 

See further, Rummel, "Narrative Structures in the Ugaritic Texts," 3.236-38. 


A. Heading and Theme: A song of redemption for the Redeemer (Exod 

B. God's Redemptive Work: Brings deliverance to his people from their 
oppressors (Exod 15:3-5) 

C. Israel's redemption: By the power of her omnipotent Redeemer (Exod 
15:6-10; of. Hab 3:14^-15) 

II. The Movement to Sinai: The Redeemer's self-revelation to his redeemed 
people (Exod 15:11-13) 

III. The Movement from Sinai tc the Jordan: The revelation of Israel's 
Redeemer to the nations (Hab 3:3-15) 

A. The Redeemer's coming from the south (Hab 3:3-15) 

1. His appearance (Hab 3:3-4; cf. Judg 5:4; Ps 68:8) 

2. His associates (Hab 3:5; cf. Deut 33:2-3) 

3. His actions (Hab 3:6-7) 

B. The Redeemer's conquest (Hab 3:8-15) 

1. His power: As seen at the Jordan (Hab 3:8-9) 

2. His power: As seen in the natural world (Hab 3:10-11; cf. Judg 
5:4-5; Pss 18:8-16; 68:8-9; 77:17-20; 144:5-6) 

3. His power: As seen by the enemy (Hab 3:12-15; cf. Exod 15:14-18) 

So viewed, the exodus epic once sang of God's mighty prowess in 
deHvering his people from Egypt, traced God's guidance of them to 
Sinai and through the Transjordanian Wilderness, sang of the cross- 
ing of the Jordan River and recorded the triumphal entry into and 
the conquest of the land. The full epic, obviously, has not been 
inscripturated. Perhaps this is because, as Cassuto suggests, the lan- 
guage of the full blown ancient epic was so intertwined with its 
mythological predecessors,^^ or simply because God wanted the focus 
of Israel's attention to be on himself and the redemption that he alone 
could and did supply to his enslaved people rather than on an 
account that all too easily could become treated as merely legendary. 

The question of Israel's literary indebtedness to other literary 
traditions must now be considered. Certainly Israel's central location 
in the midst of a somewhat similar cultural milieu favors the pos- 
sibility of a literary borrowing. Moreover, 

Literary works throughout the ancient world, especially in the 
ancient Near East, share motifs and forms. Proverbs, hymns, disputa- 
tions, and prophecies appear in the literature of cultures influenced by 
the Hebrews.'" 

Indeed, the Hebrew poets' employment of literary themes and ter- 
minology found in the epics of the surrounding nations makes the 

"Cassuto, Biblical and Oriental Studies, 2.70-80, 102. 

'"v. L. Tollers and J. R. Maier, eds., The Bible and Its Literary Milieu (Grand 
Rapids: Eerdmans, 1979) 11. 


question of the relationship of the Hebrew epic to the epic literature 
of the Ancient Near East a pertinent one. However, as Lambert 
points out, with regard to the many parallels between the literature of 
Mesopotamia and the Bible, one must be cautious in finding direct 
links in such cases. ^' 

Although some scholars suggest a relationship between the above 
mentioned material with Mesopotamian sources (e.g., Kramer and 
Smith), most underscore the frequent similarities between the OT and 
the great Canaanite epics in vocabulary, poetic devices, and, espe- 
cially, thematic motifs. As for the material considered here, Cassuto 
finds Canaanite literary traditions echoed in nearly every verse of 
Exod 15:1-18,^^ and also lists the several cases where Habakkuk has 
reproduced epic elements in his two psalms: the noise of the waves of 
the sea (Hab 3:10), the anger of the Lord against the enemy (Hab 3:8, 
12; cf. Exod 15:7), the appearance of the Lord riding on his chariots, 
the clouds of the sky (Hab 3:8; cf. Exod 15:2, 4), the thunderous voice 
of the Lord above the roar of the sea (Hab 3:10), the fear and flight of 
the enemy at the presence of the Lord (Hab 3:10; cf. Exod 15:14), the 
Lord's fighting against the rebels with his divine weapons (Hab 3:9, 
11, 14), the Lord's compelling of the monsters to leap into the sea 
(Hab 3:6; cf. Exod 15:3), the Lord's annihilation of Rahab and his 
helpers (Hab 3:9, 13; cf. Exod 15:2), the Lord's treading upon the sea 
(Hab 3:15), and his final reign (Exod 15:18).^^ Cassuto relates most of 
these to the battles reported in the Ugaritic tales of the Baal and Anat 
cycles wherein Baal compelled Prince Yam (sea) and Judge Nahar 
(river) to recognize his kingship over them.^"* Thus, the Hebrew 
poets used "the expression and motifs that . . . were a paramount 
feature of the ancient epic."*^ He goes on to suggest that the early 
Hebrew storytellers probably borrowed wholesale elements from these 
Canaanite myths and may even have had native (non-biblical) 
epic literature to draw upon, such as in the case of "The Revolt of 
the Sea." 

W. G. Lambert, "A New Look at the Babylonian Background of Genesis," in 
The Bible and Its Literary Milieu, 285-97. 

^^Cassuto, Biblical and Oriental Studies, 2.99-lOL 

^^See the concise summary by Rummei, "Narrative Structures in the Ugaritic 
Texts," 3.236-39. 

^''Cassuto, Biblical and Oriental Studies, 2.80-97. Cassuto relates the Lord's tread- 
ing upon the sea to Marduk's defeat of Tiamat recounted in the Enuma Elish; see 
AN FT, 67. 

^'ibid., 99. For a discussion of common elements of the epic battle of the divine 
hero against the sea, see E. L. Greenstein, "The Snaring of Sea in the Baal Epic," 
MAARAV 3 (1982) 195-216. Greenstein has an excellent bibliography of sources that 
relate the epic material to the Bible. 


Although the Israelites no longer recounted tales concerning two 
deities who waged war against each other, they did nevertheless pre- 
serve a story about one of the created beings — the great Sea — who 
rebelled against his Creator, or of some kind of evil angel, who 
attempted unsuccessfully to oppose the will of God of the universe. ^^ 

However, it seems that the case for the adoption of a complete 
secular story in full literary dependence upon Ugaritic source material 
has not been demonstrated. While many of the data cited above 
extensively reflect the phraseology and vocabulary of Canaanite 
literature, no full scale borrowing can be shown, even in Cassuto's 
"Song of the Sea." 

Not only this, but the settings of these two sources are distinctly 
different. The relevant Near Eastern accounts deal with creation and 
the ordering of the heavens and earth.^^ The cycle of biblical narra- 
tives upon which Habakkuk evidently drew deals with the exodus, the 
basic expression of Israel's spiritual heritage. Although the two ex- 
tended portions in the OT considered here, Exod 15:1-18; Hab 3:3- 
15, are indeed victory songs, the literary relationship between the 
scriptural accounts and the Near Eastern literature need be viewed as 
nothing more than that. All that can be safely said is that in the 
singing of God's redemption of Israel from Egypt, Israel's songwriters 
have used the format, vocabulary, and phraseology of victory genre 
and heroic epic narratives. Therefore, Cross is correct when he 

Israel's religion in its beginning stood in a clear line of continuity 
with the mythopoeic patterns of West Semitic, especially Canaanite 
myth. Yet its religion did emerge from the old matrix and its institu- 
tions were transformed by the impact of formative historical events and 
their interpretation by elements of what we may call "Proto-Israel" 
which came together in the days of Moses and in the era of the 

Accordingly, it is apparent that just as with the whole corpus, so the 
relevant verses of Habakkuk's prophecy partake of a cycle of tradi- 
tional epic material which, though using the language and literary 
motifs of its neighbors (particularly of Canaan), spoke of life through 
a victor, God himself. 

^^Cassuto, Biblical and Oriental Studies, 2.81. 

"a discussion and detailed critique of the growing literature concerning the 
Hebrews' supposed indebtedness to the literature of the ancient Near East in general 
and to Ugaritic, in particular, is given by Rummel, "Narrative Structures in the 
Ugaritic Texts," 3.233-332. 

^^Cross, Canaanite Myth and Hebrew Epic, 143-44. Cf. P. C. Craigie, "The Poetry 
of Ugarit and Israel," TB 22 (1971) 25. 


Herein lies the crucial point of the matter. Unlike the typical 
secular epic, the central figure of the scriptural epic is not man written 
large, but the one in whose image man is created — God himself. 
Despite the prowess and success of the hero of the standard non- 
biblical epic, a note of pathos and a lack of fulfillment conventionally 
attend his actions. Accompanying the highest attainments of heroic 
man, be it the valor and wisdom of Homer's heroes, the virtue of 
Vergil's Aeneas, or the strength and resourcefulness of Gilgamesh, 
there is always the sense of striving to "make do" in the face of life's 
stark realities and often cruel circumstances. Man, then, must become 
superman, or as Ing puts it, "the human figures themselves may at 
moments be raised to act on the superhuman plane. "*^ However 
representative of the finest qualities of humanity the epic hero may 
be, a sense of the unattainable, of the failure to achieve immortality 
and full human potential can be felt. Perhaps no more telling words 
can be cited than those of Gilgamesh: 

[For] whom, Urshanabi, have my hands become weary? 
For whom is the blood of my heart being spent? 
For myself I have not obtained any boon. 
For the 'earth-lion' have I obtained the boon.'° 

In the corpus of biblical epic literature, however, Israel's atten- 
tion is focused always upon the one who himself is the summum 
bonum, the source of man's redemption and the norm and standard 
for man's activities. In the deepest sense, man's fullest goals become 
fulfilled by being identified with and submitted to him who is ultimate 
reality. Israelite epic, then, unlike its secular counterparts, is realized 
epic,^' for the one of whose presence the Israelite sings is at once 
man's highest goal. 

That the Hebrew epic is realized epic may be seen not only from 
the clear implications of the epic material itself (e.g., Exod 15:2, 17- 
18; Ps 77:21 [Heb.]), but from the reaction of Habakkuk at witness- 
ing the mighty acts of God (Hab 3:16-19; cf. Job's similar response at 
seeing the all-suflficient greatness of God, Job 42:1-6). Moreover, it is 
clear that the exodus event becomes throughout the OT not only the 
basis of Israel's redemption but the entrance into a life lived in 
accordance with God's predetermination of what is best for man.^^ 

''Ing, "Epic," 1.197. 

'*°The translation given here is taken from Heidel, The Gilgamesh Epic and Old 
Testament Parallels, 92. 

"l owe the coining of this term to Michael Travers of the English Department at 
Liberty University. 

'^See the helpful discussion of G. Vox, Biblical Theology (Grand Rapids: Eerd- 
mans, 1954) 124-29. See also E. Martens, God's Design (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1981) 


This is apparent not only from the account of the exodus from Egypt, 
which itself forms the foundation for the formulaic presentation of 
the Ten Commandments (Exod 19:4-6; 20:2-17; Deut 5:6-21) and 
the specific requirements for a redeemed people (Deut 4:37-40; 5:27- 
29; 10:12-21; 12:28; Jer 7:22-23, etc.), but from the details of the 
wilderness wanderings (Deut 8:1-6; 11:1-7, etc.) and the culminating 
experience of being God's special people (Exod 19:5; Deut 7:6-11; 
14:2; 26:16-19) fitted for living in the land of promise (Deut 6:1-25; 
8:7-10; 1 1:8-21; Josh 23:3-6, 15; Ps 105:43-45, etc.).'' 

From start to finish, then, the exodus formed one grand event 
through which a redeemed people was to realize life's full potential 
and finest blessings. Indeed, before that event had taken place or the 
epic songs had been sung, God had told Moses, 

"I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of 
Isaac and the God of Jacob." At this, Moses hid his face, because he 
was afraid to look at God. 

The LORD said, "I have indeed seen the misery of my people in 
Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and 
I am concerned about their suffering. So I have come down to rescue 
them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that 
land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and 

Through it all a redeemed people learned the divine prescription for 
living life on the highest plane. As Martens remarks. 

In summary, early Israel knew about God through his activity in 
nature and among nations. She experienced him more directly in his 
power and salvation at the exodus, and in an on-going fashion she was 
led into a life of intimacy with him in the religious practices which he 

The basis of that on-going life lay in doing that which was perfect in 
God's sight (Deut 18:13; cf. Ps 101:6). The dynamic for carrying out 
that life rested in the appropriating of God's moral attributes as one's 
own, especially his holiness (Lev 11:44; 19:2). The standard for the 
believer's ethical conduct meant living life as God did, in truth and 
justice (Ps 85:1-14 [Heb.]), and the imperative for that ethic lay in a 
growing, all-consuming love for God that resulted in a consistent 

'^K. A. Kitchen, "Exodus," in The New Bible Dictionary, ed. J. D. Douglas 
(Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1962) 404, well remarks, "Repeatedly in later generations, 
the prophets in exhorting Israel to return to her God and the psalmists in their 
meditations hark back to this Exodus. . . . For them, the great redemption is ever to be 
remembered with gratitude and response in obedience." 

''Exod 3:6-8, NIV. 

'^E. Martens, God's Design, 96. See also his earlier discussion on pp. 18-20. 


faithfulness to God in every area of life.^^ Unlike the frustrated hero 
of the secular epic who ultimately remained unfulfilled, the OT be- 
liever found his epic hero in the One who offered Ufe on the highest 
plane. That message of full salvation would continue to punctuate the 
pages of the old revelation until in the fulness of time would come the 
Great Redeemer who would proclaim "I am come that ye might have 
life and that more abundantly" (John 10:10). 


A careful analysis of Habakkuk's twofold psalm reveals that it is 
to be viewed primarily as a victory song. Like other victory songs in 
the ancient Near East its leading themes and literary features place 
Habakkuk's psalm firmly within the corpus of Semitic epic literature. 
The common subject matter, phraseology, and structure it shares with 
several other early poetic compositions in the OT suggest the pos- 
sibility of the existence of an ancient Hebrew epic cycle that com- 
memorated God's heroic redemption of Israel in the movement from 
Egypt to Canaan. Moreover, it is not inconceivable that the meaning 
of that great exodus event, starting from the deliverance out of Egypt 
and stretching to the conquest, continued to be sung in non-canonical 
and canonical settings down through Israel's history, becoming par- 
ticularly prominent at times of national distress, as in Habakkuk's 
day. As noted above, the language and literary themes of that great 
event were sung not only by Moses (Exod 15:1-18; cf. Num 23:22-24; 
24:8-9; Deut 33:2-3), but on subsequent occasions at crucial times: 
by Deborah (Judg 5:4-5) and David (Pss 18:8-16 [Heb.]; 68:8-9 
[Heb.]; 144:5-6), and in the poems of the temple liturgy (Pss 77:17-20 
[Heb.]; 1 14:3-7). Thus, Cross aflftrms that 

The oldest poetry of Israel, our earliest Biblical sources which 
survive in unrevised form, is marked by a ubiquitous motif: the march 
of Yahweh from the southern mountains (or from Egypt) with his 
heavenly armies.^'' 

Cross goes on to suggest that this became the dominant theme of the 
early Israelite cultus. Whether or not this latter idea can be affirmed, 
certainly the exodus event is repeatedly referred to, and themes from 
the epic cycle continue to appear in the canonical literature at crucial 
times in the first millennium B.C. One may consider, for example, Joel 

'^''The NT ethic, based on the new covenant where God's eternal principles are 
written in the believer's heart, prescribes the same great elements: perfection (Matt 
5:48), holiness (1 Pet 1:16), and truth and love (Eph 4:15-16). 

''Cross, "The Divine Warrior in Israel's Early Cult," 25. 


(3:15-16), Amos (1:2; 4:13^; 8:8; 9:5-6), and Isaiah (e.g., 17:13; 44:27; 
50:2; 51:10, 15; 64:1-4; 66:15) in the eighth century, and Nahum (1:2- 
4), as well as Habakkuk, in the seventh century. 

Thus, there is every reason to believe that Habakkuk could have 
literary antecedents that were fully available to him for use in com- 
posing his double psalm. In this regard, Keil remarks: 

The description of this theophany rests throughout upon earlier 
lyrical descriptions of the revelations of God in the earlier times of 
Israel. Even the introduction (ver. 3) has its roots in the song of Moses 
in Deut. xxxiii.2; and in the further course of the ode we meet with 
various echoes of different psalms (compare ver. 6 with Ps. xviii.8; ver. 
8 with Ps. xviii.lO; ver. 19 with Ps. xviii.33, 34; also ver. 5 with Ps. 
lxviii.25; ver. 8 with Ps. lxviii.5, 34). The points of contact in vers. 
10-15 with Ps. Ixxvii. 17-21, are still more marked, and are of such a 
kind that Habakkuk evidently had the psalm in his mind, and not the 
writer of the psalm the hymn of the prophet, and the prophet has 
reproduced in an original manner such features of the psalm as were 
adapted to his purpose.^^ 

Of course, God could also have supernaturally revealed to Habakkuk 
these very events so that Habakkuk saw and heard what transpired in 
those days. If so, he could have easily used the very archaic phrase- 
ology of that earlier age.^^ Habakkuk's own reaction to the epic 
material may well point to such a visionary experience: "I heard and 
my heart pounded, my lips quivered at the sound" (Hab 3:16). Under 
either alternative the archaic nature of the poetry is readily explained. 
In any case, it is evident that Habakkuk had been led by the 
Lord to consider the greatness and sufficiency of God. In so doing, 
his attention is called to Israel's central experience of deliverance, the 
exodus. Habakkuk apparently knew it well: "Lord, I have heard of 
your fame; I stand in awe of your deeds, O Lord" (Hab 3:2a). As 
suggested above, he may even have had a body of epic literary 
tradition available to him as he contemplated his perplexities and 
God's person.'™ The rehearsal of the double poem of the exodus 
event was sufficient for the prophet. 

'"Keil, Minor Prophets, 2.96. 

'^So T. Laetsch, Minor Prophets, 345. So also. Smith, Micah-Malachi 116, who 
remarks, "3:3-15 is a vision of Habakkuk much like the vision God promised him in 
2.3. Habakkuk may have had an ecstatic experience in which he 'saw' God coming to 
defeat his enemies." 

'""Note that Habakkuk's final affirmation of confidence in the Lord (v 19) is also 
drawn from the corpus of older literature (cf. Ps 18:33-34 [Heb.] with Job 9:8). For 
Heb. m?D3 = bmt j 'back,' see Gordon, Ugaritic Textbook, 3.373. 


Habakkuk had asked that — beyond whatever judgment Israel 
must experience — God would again move on behalf of his people in a 
deliverance like unto that in the exodus (Hab 3:2). The reiteration of 
God's past intervention on behalf of his people, delivering them from 
bondage and guiding them into the land of promise, brought reassur- 
ance to him (Hab 3:16-19). God's word had brought new confidence 
to the prophet that both the present situation and final destination for 
the people of God would find their resolution in the redeeming God 
of the exodus event. As Feinberg points out. 

In a sublime manner the prophet now pictures a future redemp- 
tion under figures taken from past events. The background here is the 
memory of the events of the Exodus and Sinai. Just as the Lord 
manifested Himself when He redeemed Israel from Egypt, He will 
appear again to deliver the godly among His people from their oppres- 
sors among the nations and will judge their foes as He did the land of 
Egypt. '°' 

As the message of Habakkuk is heard again by the people of God, 
may that same God-inspired confidence and conviction grip them as 
the prophets of old, 

I will wait patiently for the day of calamity ... 

yet I will rejoice in the Lord, 

I will be joyful in God my Savior. 

The Sovereign Lord is my strength; 

he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, 

he enables me to go on the heights. '°^ 

C. L. Feinberg, The Minor Prophets (Chicago: Moody, 1976) 216-17. See also, 
H. Hailey, A Commentary on the Minor Prophets (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1972) 290. 
'°'Hab3:16, 18-19, A^/F. 

Grace Theological Journal 8.2(1987)195-212 




William W. Combs 

The Gnostic heresy alluded to in the NT and widely repudiated 
by Christian writers in the second century and after has been in- 
creasingly studied in the last forty years. The discovery in upper 
Egypt of an extensive collection of Gnostic writings on papyri trans- 
formed a poorly known movement in early Christianity into a well 
documented heresy of diverse beliefs and practices. 

The relationship of Gnosticism and the NT is an issue that has 
not been resolved by the new documents. Attempts to explain the 
theology of the NT as dependent on Gnostic teachings rest on ques- 
tionable hypotheses. The Gnostic redeemer-myth cannot be docu- 
mented before the second century. Thus, though the Gnostic writings 
provide helpful insight into the heresies growing out of Christianity, it 
cannot be assumed that the NT grew out of Gnostic teachings. 


STUDENTS of the NT have generally been interested in the subject 
of Gnosticism because of its consistent appearance in discussions 
of the "Colossian heresy" and the interpretation of John's first epistle. 
It is felt that Gnosticism supplies the background against which these 
and other issues should be understood. However, some who use the 
terms "Gnostic" and "Gnosticism" lack a clear understanding of the 
movement itself. In fact, our knowledge of Gnosticism has suffered 
considerably from a lack of primary sources. Now, however, with the 
discovery of the Nag Hammadi (hereafter, NH) codices, this void is 
being filled. 

The NH codices were discovered in 1945, a year before the 
Qumran manuscripts, but the documents from NH have received 
comparatively little attention from conservative scholars. Unfortu- 
nately, political problems and personal rivalries have caused numerous 


delays in the publication of the NH texts. Thanks mainly to the 
efforts of Professor James Robinson, English translations of all thir- 
teen codices have at last been published in a single volume.' Photo- 
graphic reproductions of the papyrus pages and leather covers are 
now also available.^ A complete eleven-volume critical edition of the 
codices entitled The Coptic Gnostic Library began to appear in 1975. 
The amount of literature on NH is already quite large and growing at 
a rapid pace.^ 

The manuscripts from NH have importance for a number of 
scholarly disciplines, including Coptic itself, since the entire library is 
in that language. Also, because the vast majority of the library is 
composed of Christian Gnostic writings, it is now possible to study 
this movement from primary sources, rather than having to rely upon 
the secondhand accounts given by the early Church Fathers or 
"Heresiologists." Most important for Biblical studies, of course, is the 
relationship between NH and the NT. 


According to the best evidence, the discovery of the NH codices 
took place in December 1945.'* Three brothers, Abu al-Majd, 
Muhammad, and Khalifah Ali of the al-Samman clan, were digging 
at the base of a cliff for soil rich in nitrates to use as fertilizer. The 
cliff, Jabal al Tarif, is about ten kilometers northeast of Nag Ham- 
madi, the largest town in the area. Abu al-Majd actually unearthed 
the jar; but his older brother, Muhammad, quickly took control of it, 
broke it open, and discovered the codices. Having wrapped the books 
in his tunic, he returned to his home in the village of al-Qasr, the site 
of the ancient city Chenoboskion^ where Saint Pachomius was con- 
verted to Christianity in the fourth century and where one of his 

James M. Robinson, ed., The Nag Hammadi Library in English (San Francisco: 
Harper and Row, 1977). 

^James M. Robinson, ed., The Facsimile Edition of the Nag Hammadi Codices 
(Leiden: Brill, 1972-84). For a complete list, see B. A. Pearson and J. E. Goehring, 
eds., The Roots of Egyptian Christianity (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1986) xiii. 

'David M. Scholer's bibliography runs to nearly 2,500 items {Nag Hammadi 
Bibliography 1948-1969 [Leiden: Brill, 1971]). It is supplemented each year in Novum 
Testamentum (1971-). Over 3,000 additional items have been listed by Scholer since 

The most up-to-date and thorough account of the discovery is by James M. 
Robinson, "The Discovery of the Nag Hammadi Codices," BA 42 (1979) 206-24. This 
should be supplemented by his "The Discovering and Marketing of Coptic Manu- 
scripts: The Nag Hammadi Codices and the Bodmer Papyri," in Egyptian Christianity, 

'Robinson believes the name should be spelled Chenoboskia. 

combs: nag hammadi and nt interpretation 197 

monasteries was located. Muhammad Ali dumped the codices on top 
of some straw that was lying by the oven to be burned. His mother 
thought they were worthless and burned some of the pages in the 
oven (probably Codex XII of which only a few fragmentary leaves 

The books were eventually sold for a few piasters or given away 
until their value was later realized. Most of them went through the 
hands of a series of middlemen and were sold on the black market 
through antiquities dealers. Having arrived by various means in Cairo, 
the majority of the library was either purchased by the Coptic 
Museum or confiscated by the Egyptian Department of Antiquities 
when attempts were made to smuggle some codices out of the country. 
Most of Codex I was taken out of Egypt by a Belgian antiquities 
dealer. It was unsuccessfully offered for sale in New York and Ann 
Arbor in 1949. Finally, in May 1952 it was purchased by the Jung 
Institute of Zurich and named the Jung Codex. The rest of Codex I 
had found its way to the Coptic Museum. In exchange for the rights 
to publish the entire codex (six volumes from 1956 to 1975), the 
Zurich authorities agreed to return the Jung Codex folios to the 
Coptic Museum.^ Today the entire NH library is in the Museum. 

The first scholar to examine the codices was a young Frenchman, 
Jean Doresse, who had come to Egypt in 1947 to study Coptic 
monasteries.^ Because his wife had been a student in Paris with Togo 
Mina, the Director of the Coptic Museum, Doresse was allowed to 
see the codices and in January of 1948 announced their discovery to 
the world. The death of Mina and subsequent political upheavals in 
Egypt put a halt to plans to publish the library. Doresse attached the 
ancient place name of Chenoboskion to the discovery, but it never 
caught on. Later scholars have called the discovery NH, probably 
because this location has served as a base camp for all who have 
come to investigate the origin of the fibrary.^ 

In 1956 the new Director of the Coptic Museum, Pahor Labib, 
made plans for a facsimile edition of the library, but only one volume 
appeared. An EngHsh translation of The Gospel of Thomas was 
pubhshed in 1959. Because Labib allowed relatively few scholars to 
have access to the Hbrary, only a few parts of it were published until 
1972. In 1961 under the auspices of UNESCO, an agreement was 

Robinson, The Nag Hammadi Library in English, 23. 

'For details about the intrigues of the Jung Codex, see J. M. Robinson, "The Jung 
Codex: The Rise and Fall of a Monopoly," RelSRev 3 (1977) 17-30; Egyptian Chris- 
tianity, 2-25. 

'Doresse has written an account of his experiences in The Secret Books of the 
Egyptian Gnostics, trans. P. Mairet (New York: Viking, 1960) 116-36. 

'James M. Robinson, "Introduction," BA 42 (1979) 201. 


worked out with the Egyptian government to pubhsh a facsimile 
edition of the entire Ubrary. The project was delayed until 1970 when 
an International Committee for the NH Codices was formed under 
the leadership of James Robinson. By 1977 the entire library was in 
the public domain. 


A list of the tractates in the NH library can be found in Table 1. 
Listings of the library refer to thirteen codices; however, the eight 
leaves of Codex XIII form a separate essay or tractate that was 
tucked inside the cover of Codex VI in antiquity. '° Much of Codex 
XII is missing, probably lost or destroyed since the discovery of the 
library. The library contains a total of fifty-two tractates of which six 
are duplicates. Of the forty-six remaining tractates, six are texts of 
which a complete copy existed elsewhere, so there are forty tractates 
that are extant only in the NH library. Fragments of three of these 
were already extant, but these fragments were too small to identify 
their contents until NH provided the full text." About ten of the 
tractates are in poor enough condition so as often to obscure the train 
of thought. In terms of pages of text, Robinson estimates that out of 
1,239 inscribed pages that were buried, 1,156 have survived at least in 

Each codex was originally bound in leather; the covers of Codices 
I-XI have survived. These were lined with papyrus pasted into thick 
cardboards (called cartonnage) in order to produce a hardback effect. 
Study of this used papyrus, which consists mostly of letters and 
business documents, has produced names of persons and places as 
well as dates that help to date the collection of the library to the mid- 
dle of the fourth century. Of course, this does not determine the date 
of the origin of the individual tractates except in respect to the 
terminus ad quern. Some are known to have been written as early as 
the second century.'^ 

The language of the codices is Coptic, which simply means 
"Egyptian" (the consonants CPT in "Coptic" are a variant of those in 

'"James M. Robinson, "Inside the Cover of Codex VI," in Essays on the Nag 
Hammadi Texts in Honour of Alexander Bohling, ed. Martin Krause (Leiden: Brill, 
1972) 74-87. 

"James M. Robinson, The Nag Hammadi Codices (2nd ed.; Claremont, Calif.: 
Institute for Antiquity and Christianity, 1977) 3-4. Greek papyri fragments discovered 
at Oxyrhynchus in 1897 and 1904, called the "Logia" by B. P. Grenfell and A. S. Hunt, 
turn out to be the Greek text of the Coptic Gospel of Thomas. See J. A. Fitzmyer, 
Essays on the Semitic Background of the New Testament (Missoula: Scholars, 1974) 

'^Robinson, Nag Hammadi Codices, 4. 

'^Edwin M. Yamauchi, Pre-Christian Gnosticism (2nd ed.; Grand Rapids: 
Eerdmans, 1983) 101-2. 

combs: nag hammadi and nt interpretation 199 

Tractates in the NH Library 




The Prayer of the Apostle Paul (+ colophon) 

The Apocryphon of James 

The Gospel of Truth 

The Treatise on Resurrection 

The Tripartite Tractate 
The Apocryphon of John 

The Gospel of Thomas 

The Gospel of Philip 

The Hypostasis of the Archons 

On the Origin of the World 

The Exegesis of the Soul 

The Book of Thomas the Contender (+ colophon) 
The Apocryphon of John 

The Gospel of the Egyptians 

Eugnostos the Blessed 

The Sophia of Jesus Christ 

The Dialogue of the Savior 


The Apocryphon of John 


The Gospel of the Egyptians 


Eugnostos the Blessed 


The Apocalypse of Paul 


The First Apocalypse of James 


The Second Apocalypse of James 


The Apocalypse of Adam 


The Acts of Peter and the Twelve Apostles 


The Thunder, Perfect Mind 


Authoritative Teaching 


The Concept of Our Great Power 


Plato, Republic 588B-589B 


The Discourse on the Eighth and Ninth 


The Prayer of Thanksgiving (+ scribal note) 


Asclepius 21-29 


The Paraphrase of Shem 


The Second Treatise of the Great Seth 


Apocalypse of Peter 


The Teaching of Silvanus (+ colophon) 


The Three Steles of Seth (+ colophon) 




The letter of Peter to Philip 




The Thought of Norea 


The Testimony of Truth 




The Interpretation of Knowledge 


A Valentinian Exposition 



On the Anointing 



On Baptism A 



On Baptism B 



On the Eucharist A 


TABLE 1 (continued) 
Codex Tractate Title 



On the Eucharist B 









The Sentences of Sextus 



The Gospel of Truth 






Trimorphic Protennoia 



On the Origin of the World 

"Egyptian," GPT). However, two dialects are used, Sahidic for most 
of the library and Subachmimic for Codices I, X, and part of XI. "^ 
Although written in Coptic, it is almost the universal opinion of 
scholars that the library is a translation of Greek originals. Almost 
nothing is known about those who translated the tractates into 
Coptic, those who produced the extant copies, or those who buried 
them. Robinson has attempted to connect the library with the 
Pachomian monastery that was located at Chenoboskion, but this 
link is now questioned.'^ 

In listings of the codices the Berlin Codex 8502, which dates 
from the fifth century, is sometimes included. Its four tractates are 
similar to those found at NH; in fact, two are duplicates. Although 
discovered in 1896, it was not published until 1955.'^ 

Subject Matter 

The tractates represent a diverse background that includes non- 
Gnostic, non-Christian Gnostic(?), and Christian Gnostic works. The 
question of which, if any, of the tractates fall into the non-Christian 
Gnostic category is widely debated (see below). 

^'^IDBSup, s.v. "Nag Hammadi," by George W. MacRae, 613. 
The Nag Hammadi Library in English, 13-21; The Nag Hammadi Codices, 1-2. 
Robinson's view that the NH library came from a Pachomian monastery was based on 
the preliminary study of the cartonnage by the late John W. B. Barns, "Greek and 
Coptic Papyri from the Covers of the Nag Hammadi Codices," in Essays on the Nag 
Hammadi Library, ed. M. Krause (Leiden: Brill, 1975) 9-18. Further study has cast 
serious doubts about whether the monks mentioned in the cartonnage are Pachomian. 
See J. C. Shelton, "Introduction," in Nag Hammadi Codices: Greek and Coptic Papyri 
from the Cartonnage of the Covers, ed. J. W. Barnes, G. M. Browne, and J. C. Shelton 
(Leiden: Brill, 1981) II. Though the Pachomian origin of the NH library has also been 
supported by F. C. Wisse, C. Hedrick, and J. E. Goehring, authorities on Pachomius 
question it. See A. Veilleux, "Monasticism and Gnosis in Egypt," in Egyptian Christi- 
anity, 278-83 and P. Rosseau, Pachomius (Berkeley: University of California, 1985) 27. 

"""Nag Hammadi," by George W. MacRae, 615. 

combs: nag hammadi and nt interpretation 201 

Since it is not feasible to discuss the contents of each tractate, it 
may be helpful to present at least a preliminary classification of the 
library according to the various genres represented therein. 

Literary Genres 

The library contains a wide variety of literary genres. Some of 
these are typical of Gnostic literature, while others are imitative of the 
genres in Christian and other literature. Some of the tractates are 
representative of more than one genre. The following classifications 
are taken from MacRae.'^ 

Gospels. Of the four tractates that bear the title "gospel," The 
Gospel of Truth, The Gospel of Thomas, The Gospel of Philip, and 
The Gospel of the Egyptians, none actually correspond to the gospel 
genre of the NT. The most important of these, The Gospel of Thomas, 
is a collection of 114 logia or sayings attributed to Jesus. The Greek 
original was probably composed in Edessa in Syria ca. a.d. 140.'^ 

Apocalypses. A number of tractates are titled "apocalypses": 
The Apocalypse of Paul, The First Apocalypse of James, The Second 
Apocalypse of James, The Apocalypse of Adam, and Apocalypse of 
Peter. Also in this category would be Asclepius 21-29, The Hypostasis 
of the Archons, and The Paraphrase of Shem. In one of the most 
important of these, The Apocalypse of Adam, the future course of 
Gnostic history is received by Adam in a revelation and transmitted 
to his son Seth. This tractate is claimed to display a non-Christian 

Acts. One tractate in the Nag Hammadi library uses the name 
"acts" in its title, The Acts of Peter and the Twelve Apostles. Actually, 
another work. The Letter of Peter to Philip has closer parallels to the 
NT book of Acts. 

Letters. Some of the tractates, such as The Treatise on Resur- 
rection and Eugnostos the Blessed, have occasionally been referred to 
as epistles because they are addressed to pupils from their teacher. 
However, they fall more into the category of treatises. None of the 
tractates are imitative of the Pauline letter form. 

Dialogues. MacRae notes that "one of the most characteristic 
genres of Gnostic literature is the dialogue between the risen Jesus 

""Nag Hammadi," by George W. MacRae, 616-17. 

^"ISBE, 1979 ed., s.v. "Apocryphal Gospels," by Edwin M. Yamauchi, 186. 

^^IDBSup, s.v. "Adam, Apocalypse of," by George W. MacRae, 9-10. 


and his disciples in which Gnostic teaching is revealed. ""° The Sophia 
of Jesus Christ and The Dialogue of the Savior are excellent examples 
of this genre in the NH library. Parts of several other tractates also 
fall within this category. 

Secret Books. The word "apocryphon" is used in the titles of two 
works, The Apocryphon of James and The Apocryphon of John. 
Strictly speaking, this category is not a separate genre since these two 
works fall into the apocalyptic and revelational discourse classifications. 

Speculative treatises. The most important of these is On the 
Origin of the World. In addition, Eugnostos the Blessed and a few 
other tractates have affinities with this genre. 

Wisdom Literature. The two examples of this genre in the NH 
library, The Teachings of Silvanus and The Sentences of Sextus, are 
both non-Gnostic writings. The latter tractate is a Coptic translation 
of a well-known ancient work which is extant in Greek, Latin, and 
several other languages.^' 

Revelational discourses. A number of works come under this 
heading in which a revealer speaks in the first person. Sometimes, as 
in the case of The Thunder, Perfect Mind, and Trimorphic Pro- 
tennoia, the revealer is a female. 

Prayers. There are examples of Christian and non-Christian 
prayers in the library. Three of these are The Prayer of the Apostle 
Paul, The Prayer of Thanksgiving, and The Three Steles of Set h. 

Types of Gnosticism 

The NH library has made available a wealth of primary Gnostic 
material; however, it has probably generated more questions than it 
has answered. Doresse's preliminary investigations led him to con- 
clude that the library was primarily a Sethian Gnostic collection.'^ A 
study by Wisse has now demonstrated that Doresse was premature in 
his assessment of the library and, in fact, virtually none of the 
tractates corroborates in detail the accounts of Sethian Gnosticism 
given by the Church Fathers. ^^ Some scholars now question the 
reliability of patristic testimony regarding Gnosticism. Evans has 

"Nag Hammadi," by George W. MacRae, 616. On the genre of dialogues, see 
Pheme Perkins, The Gnostic Dialogue (New York: Paulist, 1980). 

"'Frederick Wisse, "Introduction to The Sentences of Sextus,"" in The Nag 
Hammadi Library in English, ed. James M. Robinson, 454. 

"Doresse, The Secret Books of the Egyptian Gnostics, 249-51. 

"Frederick Wisse, "The Sethians and the Nag Hammadi Library," in Society of 
Biblical Literature 1972 Proceedings, vol. 2, ed. Lane C. McGaughy (n.p.: Society of 
Biblical Literature, 1972), 601-7. 

combs: nag hammadi and nt interpretation 203 

observed that "liberal scholars treat the Fathers with reserve while 
conservative scholars tend to see the new source material providing 
some confirmation of the Fathers."^'* 

However, the inability to correlate every facet of Gnosticism 
found in the library with the patristic testimony should not be viewed 
as unusual. There was great variety in Gnostic systems. For example, 
Irenaeus (ca. a.d. 180) noted that the Valentinians "differ among 
themselves in their treatment of the same points, and in regard to the 
things they describe and the names they employ, are at variance with 
one another."" Also, it appears that the Heresiologists, rather than 
intentionally distorting Gnostic thought, seemed to have sometimes 
misunderstood it. 

Although it is true that some of the NH materials cannot be 
identified with the well-known Gnostic systems of the second and 
third centuries, a number of the tractates do show clear correspon- 
dences.^^ MacRae would classify all of Codex I, The Gospel of Philip, 
and The Apocalypse of James as representative of the Valentinian 
sect.^^ The Apocryphon of John is in general agreement with the 
teachings of the Barbelo-Gnostics as reported by Irenaeus.^* Other 
tractates have been identified with the Sethians and other Gnostic 
sects, but most of these suggestions are only tentative at this early 
stage in the study of the library. 

Non- Gnostic Material 

One of the greatest surprises in the library was the presence of 
non-Gnostic tractates such as Plato's Republic and The Sentences of 
Sextus, a series of ethical maxims attributed to the philosopher 
Sextus. Three tractates from Codex VI, The Discourse on the Eighth 
and Ninth, The Prayer of Thanksgiving, and Asclepius 21-29, are 
clear-cut examples of Hermetic literature. ^^ The Hermetica are tradi- 
tions from Egypt that were purported to be the revelations of Hermes 
Trismegistos, the Egyptian god of wisdom. 

Since most of the library is composed of Christian Gnostic 
works, the question arises as to why non-Christian and even non- 
Gnostic documents, such as a portion of Plato's Republic, would be 
included in the library. 

""C. A. Evans, "Current Issues in Coptic Gnosticism for New Testament Study," 
Studia Biblica et Theologica 9 (1979) 97. 

^^ Against Heresies, 1 . 11. 1 . 

"''For information on the various Gnostic systems, see Hans Jonas, The Gnostic 
Religion (Boston: Beacon, 1958). 

""Nag Hammadi," by George W. MacRae, 617. 

"^Werner Foerster, Gnosis: A Selection of Gnostic Texts, vol. 1: Patristic Evidence, 
ed. R. McL. Wilson (Oxford: Clarendon, 1972), 100-120. 

'^IDBSup, s.v. "Hermetic Literature," by Edwin M. Yamauchi, 408. 


The answer is found in understanding the gnostic approach to inter- 
pretation. For them, truth lies at two levels. At the literal and obvious 
level truth is accessible to all, but at the deeper level one finds truth 
which only the Gnostic can discern. Such an approach is assumed by 
the Gospel of Thomas (II, 2): "Whoever finds the interpretation of 
these sayings will not experience death." Therefore, documents which 
represent a variety of traditions (Plato, Hermetica, Sextus, Silvanus) 
may be interpreted at a deeper (i.e., gnostic) level. ^^ 


The NH library was discovered forty years ago, but because most 
of the tractates have only been published in recent years, the inter- 
pretation of the library is just beginning. Already, however, some 
major issues of interpretation in relation to the NT have arisen. 

Pre- Christian Gnosticism 

Probably most of the discussion about the contents of the Hbrary 
has centered around its contribution to the question of pre-Christian 
Gnosticism. Until the twentieth century, the prevailing view of Gnos- 
ticism was that of the Church Fathers, who held that it was a heresy 
that developed out of Christianity. Early in this century this view was 
challenged by the Religionsgeschichtliche Schule or History of 
Religions School.^' This approach 

represents the most thorough-going application of a naturaUstic histor- 
icism to the study of the Bible. It assumes that biblical religion, in both 
the Old and New Testaments, passed through stages of growth and 
evolution like all ancient religions, and in this evolution was heavily 
influenced through interaction with its religious environment. This 
method involves the consistent application of the principle of analogy 
to biblical religion: the history and development of biblical religion 
must be analogous to the history and development of other ancient 

The leading spokesmen of the History of Religions School, 
Wilhelm Bousset (1865-1920) and Richard Reitzenstein (1861-1931), 
argued upon the basis of Hermetic, Iranian, and Mandaean docu- 
ments, all of which postdated the NT, that Gnosticism existed prior 

^°Evans, "Current Issues in Coptic Gnosticism," 97. 

^'For an excellent discussion of the History of Religions School, see George E. 
Ladd, 77?^ New Testament and Criticism (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1967) 195-214. 

"Ladd, New Testament and Criticism, 196. 

"Edwin M. Yamauchi, "Some Alleged Evidences for Pre-Christian Gnosticism," 
in New Dimensions in New Testament Study, ed. Richard N. Longenecker and Merrill 
C. Tenney (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1974) 47. 

combs: nag hammadi and nt interpretation 205 

to Christianity.^^ Rudolf Bultmann adopted the idea of pre-Christian 
Gnosticism and sought to explain NT Christianity as the result of a 
syncretistic process that included Gnostic ideas. ^"* Most German NT 
scholars, because of the influence of Bultmann, have assumed a pre- 
Christian Gnosticism as a basis for their interpretation of the NT. For 
example, one of Bultmann's students, Walter Schmithals seems to be 
able to find Gnosticism in almost every Pauline letter. ^^ A number of 
scholars who agree with Bultmann are attempting to use the NH 
library in order to verify his view of NT Christianity. MacRae has 
accounted in a recent article: "It is my contention here that such 
evidence as we have now in the Nag Hammadi library tends to 
vindicate the position of Bultmann. "^^ 

Problem of Definition 

A vital consideration with regard to the question of pre-Christian 
Gnosticism is the need for defining Gnosticism itself. Evans has noted 
that "if Gnosticism is defined broadly then its origins are found to be 
much earlier and its roots quite diverse. However, if it is defined 
narrowly, Gnosticism may be viewed as an early Christian heresy and 
thus subsequent to the origin of Christianity."^'' Wilson has suggested 
that one solution to the problem of definition would be to distinguish 
between Gnosticism and Gnosis: "By Gnosticism we mean the 
specifically Christian heresy of the second century a.d., by Gnosis, in 
a broader sense, the whole complex of ideas belonging to the Gnostic 
movement and related trends of thought. "^^ Unfortunately, some 
scholars feel that such distinctions are too confining. MacRae refuses 
to abide by Wilson's guidelines, suggesting that "it is not the term- 
inology that matters most."^^ Bultmann uses the term die Gnosis, but 

Rudolf Bultmann, Theology of the New Testament, 2 vols., trans. Kendrick 
Grobel (New York: Scribner's, 1951-55) 1.164. 

'^See his Gnosticism in Corinth, trans. John E. Steely (Nashville: Abingdon, 1971) 
and Paul and the Gnostics, trans. John E. Steely (Nashville: Abingdon, 1972). 

'^George W. MacRae, "Nag Hammadi and the New Testament," in Gnosis: 
Festschrift fiir Hans Jonas, ed. Barbara Aland (Gottingen: Vandenhoeck and Ruprecht, 
1978) 146. 

"Evans, "Current Issues in Coptic Gnosticism for New Testament Study," 98. On 
the issue of defining Gnosticism broadly, see K. Rudolph, "'Gnosis' and 'Gnosticism'— 
the Problems of their Definition and their Relation to the Writings of the New 
Testament," in The New Testament and Gnosis, ed. A. J. M. Wedderburn and A. H. B. 
Logan (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1983) 21-37; see also K. Rudolph, Gnosis (San 
Francisco: Harper and Row, 1983). 

^*R. McL. Wilson, Gnosis and the New Testament (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1968) 
9. See also his presidential address to the Studiorum Novi Testamenti Societas in 
Rome in 1981, "Nag Hammadi and the New Testament," NTS 28 (1982) 292. 

"MacRae, "Nag Hammadi and the New Testament," 146. 


his translators render it into English by the term "Gnosticism." 
German scholars prefer to use the term die Gnosis in the widest 
possible sense. 

For the sake of clarity it is essential to follow the distinctions 
between Gnosis and Gnosticism suggested by Wilson. However, even 
if the term "Gnosticism" is restricted to the second and third century 
sects, it is still difficult to come up with a definition that will 
incorporate the variety of developed Gnostic systems. Yamauchi 
believes that the essential "element of any developed Gnosticism 
would be a radical dualism between the divine and the created, 
inasmuch as a fundamental Gnostic tenet is the view that the creation 
of the world resulted from ignorance and error. """^ Wilson has sug- 
gested a four-point summary of the second century movement: 

(1) A distinction between the unknown and transcendent true God on 
the one hand and the Demiurge or creator of this world on the other, 
the latter being commonly identified with the God of the Old Tes- 
tament; (2) the belief that man in his true nature is essentially akin to 
the divine, a spark of the heavenly light imprisoned in a material body 
and subjected in this world to the dominance of the Demiurge and his 
powers; (3) a myth narrating some kind of pre-mundane fall, to account 
for man's present state and his yearning for deliverance; and (4) the 
means, the saving gnosis, by which that deliverance is effected and man 
awakened to the consciousness of his own true nature and heavenly 
origin. This deliverance, and the eventual return of the imprisoned 
sparks of light to their heavenly abode, means in time the return of this 
world to its primordial chaos, and is strenuously opposed at all points 
by the hostile powers.'" 

Wilson's four basic points are probably as precise as one can be 
in formulating a definition of Gnosticism that will include all the 
second century sects. The question then is whether the NH library 
provides any support for pre-Christian Gnosticism. 

Nag Hammadi Evidence 

The basic argument for pre-Christian Gnosticism that has 
been deduced from the NH library is the presence of supposedly 
non-Christian Gnostic tractates. Of the most commonly suggested 
examples of non-Christian Gnostic works, three are particularly 

A number of scholars believe that Eugnostos the Blessed is a 
non-Christian Gnostic tractate from which was created the Christian 
Gnostic work. The Sophia of Jesus Christ. The Nag Hammadi Library 

Yamauchi, "Some Alleged Evidences for Pre-Christian Gnosticism," 47. 
'Wilson, Gnosis and the New Testament, 4. 

combs: nag hammadi and nt interpretation 207 

in English prints the texts side by side for comparison. Although 
there was initially some debate about the priority of Eugnostos, the 
work of Krause has convinced most scholars that Sophia is a re- 
working of Eugnostos.'^^ However, it is not clear that Eugnostos is 
wholly free from Christian influence. Wilson has compiled a list of 
possible NT and Christian allusions in Eugnostos.'^^ Included among 
them is Son of Man, Saviour, and the Church. Also, the name 
Eugnostos appears in only one other tractate, The Gospel of the 
Egyptians, where Eugnostos is a Christian. Yamauchi believes that 
the Christian Eugnostos is the same person referred to in Eugnostos 
the Blessed.'^^ 

The Apocalypse of Adam has also been hailed by some scholars 
as a clear example of a non-Christian Gnostic work. This tractate 
purports to be a revelation of Adam to Seth that recounts the 
salvation of Noah from the Flood and the salvation of Seth's seed 
from destruction by fire. The story ends with the coming of the 
mighty "Illuminator." It seems clear, however, that this Illuminator — 
who is punished in his flesh, does signs and marvels, is opposed by 
powers, and has the Holy Spirit descend upon him — is none other 
than Jesus Christ.'*^ 

Another supposedly non-Christian Gnostic document is The 
Paraphrase of Shem in which a figure named Derdekeas gives a 
revelation to Shem. However, a number of scholars have pointed to 
parallels between Derdekeas and Christ."^ Also, the presence of a 
bitter polemic against water baptism (37, 14-25) is a problem for 
those who maintain the non-Christian character of the tractate. 

Even if it could be proven that any of the previously discussed 
works or, for that matter, any of the NH tractates are non-Christian 
Gnostic documents, that would not in itself be evidence for pre- 
Christian Gnosticism. Non-Christian is not necessarily pre-Christian. 
MacRae's admission is worth noting: 

The NH library does nothing to resolve the classic chronological 
challenge to Gnostic sources. That is to say that those who demand a 
chronologically pre-Christian Gnostic document in order to accept the 

"'Martin Krause, "Das literarische Verhaltnis des Eugnostosbriefes zur Sophia 
Jesu Christi," in Mullus: Festschrift fur Theodor Klauser, ed. A. Stuiber and A. 
Hermann (Munster, 1964) 215-23. 

"^Wilson, Gnosis and the New Testament, 114-15. 

""Edwin M. Yamauchi, "Pre-Christian Gnosticism in the Nag Hammadi Texts?" 
C// 48 (1979) 138. 

"'Yamauchi, "Pre-Christian Gnosticism in the Nag Hammadi Texts?" 132, and 
Pre-Christian Gnosticism, 107-15, 217-19. 

"''Yamauchi, "Pre-Christian Gnosticism in the Nag Hammadi Texts?" 136. 

"'John Dart, The Laughing Savior (New York: Harper and Row, 1976) 100. See 
also Yamauchi, Pre-Christian Gnosticism, 221. 


argument that Gnosticism is older than the second century a.d. will not 
be shaken by the publication of a mid-fourth-century collection of 
Coptic translations. And even if we are on solid ground in some cases 
in arguing the original works represented in the library are much older 
than extant copies, we are still unable to postulate plausibly any pre- 
Christian dates. ''^ 

Unfortunately, MacRae, Robinson, and a number of others either 
discount or ignore the fact that their arguments for pre-Christian 
Gnosticism are based upon late sources. 

The Descending- Ascending Redeemer Myth 

Bultmann and his followers have argued that the Christian con- 
ception of Jesus as a descending-ascending saviour figure was derived 
from the Gnostic redeemer myth. The classic description of the myth 
was set forth by Bultmann in a 1925 article. ""^ He outlined twenty- 
eight characteristics that he considered to have constituted the original 
myth. Yamauchi has conveniently summarized those characteristics: 

1. In the cosmic drama a heavenly 'Urmensch' or Primal Man of Light 
falls and is torn to pieces by demonic powers. These particles are 
encapsuled as the sparks of light in the 'pneumatics' of mankind. 

2. The demons try to stupefy the 'pneumatics' by sleep and forgetfulness 
so they will forget their divine origin. 

3. The transcendent Deity sends another Being of Light, the 'Redeemer,' 
who descends the demonic spheres, assuming the deceptive garments 

of a bodily exterior to escape the notice of the demons. 

4. The Redeemer is sent to awaken the 'pneumatics' to the truth of their 
heavenly origins and gives them the necessary 'gnosis' or 'knowledge' 

to serve as passwords for their heavenly re-ascent. 

5. The Redeemer himself re-ascends, defeating the demonic powers, and 
thereby makes a way for the spirits that will follow him. 

6. Cosmic redemption is achieved when the souls of men are collected and 
gathered upward. In this process the Redeemer is himself redeemed, 
i.e., the Primal Man who fell in the beginning is reconstituted. '^ 

Bultmann believed that the writer of the Fourth Gospel was a 
Christian convert from a Gnostic baptist group, who Christianized 
the descending-ascending redeemer myth in applying it to the his- 
torical Jesus. This myth also became the source of the redemptive 
idea in Paul's theology. 

MacRae, "Nag Hammadi and the New Testament," 146-47. 
■*'"Die Bedeutung der neuerschlossenen mandaischen und manichaischen Quellen 
fur das Verstandnis des Johannesevangeliums," ZNW2A (1925) 100-146. 
^'^Yamauchi, Pre-Christian Gnosticism, 29-30. 

combs: nag hammadi and nt interpretation 209 

Bultmann's proof for the pre-Christian nature of the Gnostic 
redeemer myth was based on texts that considerably postdated the 
NT, a fact that has not gone unnoticed by a number of scholars.^' 
However, some of Bultmann's followers have suggested that the NH 
library provides new evidence which demonstrates that he was essen- 
tially correct. Robinson has stated: 

The Apocalypse of Adam, a non-Christian Jewish Gnostic interpreta- 
tion of Genesis, presents the redeemer as coming to the world, suffering, 
and triumphing. It or traditions it used may have been composed in the 
Syrian-Jordan region during the First Century a.d. — much the same 
time and place as the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Gospel of John!" 

While it is true that The Apocalypse of Adam and several other NH 
texts present a descending-ascending redeemer figure, it has not been 
clearly demonstrated that any of these tractates are free from 
Christian influences, as was previously discussed. Even if it could be 
shown that The Apocalypse of Adam was not influenced by the NT, 
there is absolutely no historical evidence that it was composed in the 
first century, and thus influenced John's Gospel. Yamauchi has 
demonstrated that The Apocalypse of Adam could not have been 
written before the second century. ^^ 

The Gospel of Thomas 

When it was pubUshed in 1959, this document prompted curiosity 
about a "fifth gospel." Actually, it is a random series of 114 sayings 
attributed to Jesus. About half of these correspond to sayings of 
Jesus in the canonical Gospels, but scarcely any are completely 
identical. Some sayings are similar to those known previously from 
patristic literature while about forty are new sayings.^"* It is possible 
that genuine agrapha (sayings of Jesus not found in the canonical 
Gospels) may be found in Thomas since the canonical Gospels do not 
claim to be exhaustive (John 20:30). Because some of the sayings are 
parallel to those in the Oxyrhynchus papyri, which can be dated to 

^'The most devastating criticisms have come from Carsten Colpe, Die religions- 
geschichtliche Schule: Darstellung unci Kritik ihres Bildes vom gnostischen Erlosermy- 
thus (Gottingen: Vandenhoeck and Ruprecht, 1961). Also, see Henry A. Green, "Gnosis 
and Gnosticism: A Study in Methodology," Numen 24 (1977) 95-134. 

"Robinson, The Nag Hammadi Codices, 15. 

"Yamauchi, "Pre-Christian Gnosticism in the Nag Hammadi Texts?" 132-35 and 
"The Apocalypse of Adam, Mithraism, and Pre-Christian Gnosticism," in Etudes 
Mithriaques, Textes et Memoires, ed. Jacques Duchesne-Guillemin (Teheran-Liege: 
BibHotheque Pahlavi, 1978) 4.537-63. 

"^■"Andrew K. Helmbold, The Nag Hammadi Gnostic Texts and the Bible (Grand 
Rapids: Baker, 1967)57-58. 


about A.D. 150, most scholars believe that the Greek original of 
Thomas was written about a.d. 140.^^ 

Robinson believes that The Gospel of Thomas provides evidence 
for the literary genre of the so-called Q (from the German Quelle, 
meaning "source") material, a hypothetical written document that 
was the source of the material common to Matthew and Luke but not 
found in Mark/^ Both Robinson and Helmut Koester believe that 
Thomas is independent of the canonical Gospels and may even repre- 
sent an earlier form of Jesus' sayings." However, the independence of 
Thomas seems to be a minority opinion. Even Koester admits that 
the number of scholars who oppose his view is impressive. ^^ Gundry's 
study of the problem led him to conclude that "the much later date of 
The Gospel of Thomas and the undeniable wholesale interpolation of 
Gnostic ideas and sayings tip the scales in favor of Gnostic editing of 
mostly canonical sources. "^"^ Thus, if Thomas is dependent upon the 
canonical Gospels, its literary genre is much later than Q. There is 
also an important difference between Q and Thomas: Q would have 
included narrative material, whereas Thomas has none.^° 

Prologue of the Fourth Gospel 

The problem of determining the historical background of the 
prologue of John's Gospel has long preoccupied a number of NT 
scholars. In the past, scholars have been divided into two camps.^^ 
One camp, represented by C. H. Dodd, held that the backdrop for 
the prologue was to be found in Rabbinic and Philonic materials, 
together with the Hermetica. Dodd argued "that in the Prologue a 
basic Jewish (OT) theme has been interpreted in the light of the 
conceptuality of Hellenistic Jewish thought. "^^ The other camp, 

"/55£, 1979 ed., s.v. "Agrapha," by Edwin M. Yamauchi, 1.69. 

"James M. Robinson, "LOGOI SOPHON: On the Gattung of Q," in Trajectories 
through Early Christianity, with Helmut Koester (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1971) 71-113. 

"Helmut Koester, "One Jesus and Four Primitive Gospels," in Trajectories 
through Early Christianity, 186. 

^^Helmut Koester, "GNOMAI DIAPHOROI: The Origin and Nature of Diversi- 
fication in the History of Early Christianity," in Trajectories through Early Christianity, 

^'Robert H. Gundry, "Recent Investigations into the Literary Genre 'Gospel,'" in 
New Dimensions in New Testament Study, 106. 

*'*^Donald Guthrie, New Testament Introduction (3rd ed.; Downers Grove, Illinois: 
Inter- Varsity, 1970) 152. See also the important new study by G. Quispel, "The Gospel 
of Thomas Revisited," in Collogue international sur les textes de Nag Hammadi, ed. B. 
Bare (Quebec: Laval University, 1981) 218-66. 

'''Robert Kysar, "The Background of the Prologue of the Fourth Gospel: A 
Critique of Historical Methods," CJT 16 (1970) 250-55. 

"ibid., 252. 

combs: nag hammadi and nt interpretation 211 

represented by Bultmann, pointed to Gnostic sources behind the 
prologue. While Dodd relied heavily on the Hermetica, Bultmann 
drew parallels from the Odes of Solomon, neither of which can be 
dated earlier than the second century a.d. Kysar has aptly observed: 

Both Dodd and Bultmann follow the practice of using later literature 
as evidence of a thought-form which, in its earlier expressions, pre- 
sumably influenced those responsible for the Prologue. It would seem 
that such a principle, if allowed at all, opens innumerable possibilities 
for claiming an influence on the New Testament for ideas found only in 
post-first-century literature. ^^ 

Robinson has again come to the rescue of Bultmann by sug- 
gesting that a NH tractate, the Trimorphic Protennoia, demonstrates 
that the prologue did indeed have a Gnostic background.^'' Robinson 
attempts to draw thirteen parallels between Protennoia and John's 
prologue, but they are not convincing. Furthermore, Turner dates the 
Protennoia to around a.d. 200.^^ Thus, if there are any parallels 
between the two texts, it seems more likely that the prologue of 
John's Gospel was the source for Protennoia and not vice versa.^^ 


The thirteen NH codices have significantly impacted the study of 
early Christianity. Gnosticism is no longer known only from the 
outside, from what opponents of the movement recorded. Now the 
Gnostic teachings can be read firsthand in the forty tractates unique 
to the NH library. And thus, the growth of Christianity and attendant 
heresies are better documented and more clearly understood. 

The NH library also provides helpful background to the NT. 
Heresies are already being confronted in the NT, and though evidence 
is lacking to identify those heresies clearly with the Gnosticism of the 
second century, similarities in some of the false teachings are un- 
mistakable. However, students of the NT should be careful not to 
interpret NT references to concepts such as dualism and docetism, 
which later became elements in the doctrine of the second century 
Gnostic sects, as evidence of Gnosticism in the first century. It is true 

"ibid., 254. 

^''James M. Robinson, "Gnosticism and the New Testament," in Gnosis: Festschrift 
fUr Hans Jonas, ed. Barbara Aland (Gottingen: Vandenhoeck and Ruprecht, 1978) 

John D. Turner, "Introduction to the Trimorphic Protennoia,'" in The Nag 
Hammadi Library in English, 461. 

^^Edwin Yamauchi, "Jewish Gnosticism? The Prologue of John, Mandaean 
Parallels, and the Trimorphic Protennoia," in Studies in Gnosticism and Hellenistic 
Religions, ed. R. van den Brock and M. J. Vermaseren (Leiden: Brill, 1981) 467-97. 


that the roots of Gnosticism can be found in the Judaism, Christianity, 
and paganism of the first century, but classical Gnosticism has not yet 
been documented before the second century. 

In this article it has only been possible to touch on several of the 
specific areas of NT interpretation where the NH library is now being 
appealed to as a source of new light. Since the interpretation of the 
library is still in its infancy, students of the NT will undoubtedly be 
hearing more about NH in the future. However, an important issue 
for NT studies will continue to be the question of pre-Christian 
Gnosticism. Now that all the tractates have been published, we can be 
assured, as Yamauchi has put it, "that there are no unexploded 
bombshells."^' Although it is possible that a strong case may yet be 
made for non-Christian Gnosticism in some of the texts, non- 
Christian is not necessarily pre-Christian. Furthermore, NH has not 
produced any Gnostic documents that are prior to or even con- 
temporary with the birth of Christianity. 

Although Bultmann's hypothesis — that the source of Pauline and 
Johannine theology can be found in Gnostic literature — has been 
adopted in some reference works, such as the Theological Dictionary 
of the New Testament, the evidence is unconvincing. In response to 
Bultmann, Guthrie's statement that Gnostic studies have "little value" 
for students of NT theology is apropos. ^^ The distinction, then, is 
between background and source. The NH library is useful to the NT 
scholar as a background for the growing problem in the church with 
heresy, but Gnosticism was not the source for the teachings of the 

Yamauchi, "Pre-Christian Gnosticism in the Nag Hammadi Texts?" 130. 
Yamauchi has not changed his mind since that statement was made in 1979. See his 
"Pre-Christian Gnosticism, the New Testament and Nag Hammadi in Recent Debate," 
Themelios 10 (1984) 22-27. 

Donald Guthrie, New Testament Theology (Downers Grove, Illinois: Inter- 
Varsity, 1981)68. 

Grace Theological Journal 8.2 { 1 987) 2 1 3-25 


John H. Walton 

In contrast to the idea that the book of Deuteronomy is a 
legalistic refinement of Mosaic regulations, the structure of Deuter- 
onomy suggests that it is designed to elucidate the broader morality 
behind each of Ten Commandments. The book, then, is an exposition 
of the spirit of the Commandments. The sweeping implications of the 
decalogue oblige the individual to a lifestyle of moral conduct that is 
far broader than the "letter of the law" would suggest. Deuteronomy 
revolves around four major issues (authority, dignity, commitment, 
and rights and privileges), each of which is the focus of two or more 
commandments. Under each of the four issues, one commandment 
deals with conduct toward God and one or more with conduct 
toward man. When this structure is studied, it becomes clear that 
Moses grouped legal cases around common themes to bring a truer 
understanding of God's concerns and requirements as they are re- 
flected in each command of the decalogue. Thus, there is a moral 
theme behind each command that creates timeless parameters for 
ethical conduct. 


ONE of the most frequently encountered questions among Chris- 
tians of the last nineteen hundred years concerns the significance 
and applicability of the OT law for the Church. Such questions have 
not been limited to the laity, as theologians have grappled with the 
hermeneutical issues involved with cross-testamental exegesis. Careful 
responses need to be made to such questions in order to lay a 
foundation for a correct understanding of "Church and Society." 

Deuteronomy, as one of the major repositories of Israelite law, 
has been subjected to much scrutiny in this regard. A breakthrough in 
the understanding of the book came in 1979 when Kaufman pub- 
Ushed his suggested correlation of the deuteronomic laws and the 



decalogue. This was the first successful attempt at such a correlation 
and has already gained recognition as a seminal work in the area of 
Deuteronomy studies.^ 

Kaufman was of the opinion that the arrangement of the deuter- 
onomic laws in accordance with the decalogue was merely a literary 
device and that it did not necessarily betray the Israelite perception of 
legal classification.^ An examination of the correlations of the various 
sections of Deuteronomy with the decalogue suggests, however, that 
the arrangement served more than a Uterary function. Rather, by his 
choice and classification of the legal material, Moses exemplified the 
"spirit" behind each of the ten basic laws, the decalogue. The impli- 
cation of this hypothesis is that it is not left to Christ or even to 
Jeremiah to recognize that the Ten Commandments are to be under- 
stood as broader in scope than the "letter of the law." Rather, the 
commandments serve as doors into the discussion of a transcendant 
morality which they are fully understood to require. In other words, 
the Ten Commandments, even as early as Moses, were understood to 
oblige the individual to a lifestyle of moral conduct both with regard 
to God and to man. 

It is possible to identify in Deuteronomy four major issues which 
the decalogue addresses and around which the laws seem to be 
organized. They are: 




Rights and Privileges 

Commandment 1 
Commandment 2 
Commandment 3 
Commandment 4 

Commandment 5 
Commandments 6, 7, 
Commandment 9 
Commandment 10 


Commandment 1 has as its focus the authority of God, while 
Commandment 5 is concerned with human authority, mostly in its 
relationship to divine authority. While Kaufman saw Commandments 
1 and 2 combined in Deuteronomy 12, I believe Commandment 1 is 

Stephen A. Kaufman, "The Structure of the Deuteronomic Law," Maarav \/2 
(1978-79) 105-58. 

"Note, for instance, its influence in such works as Victor HamiUon, Handbook On 
the Pentateuch (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1982), and Walter Kaiser, Toward Old Testa- 
ment Ethics (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1983). 

^Cf., e.g., Kaufman, "The Structure of the Deuteronomic Law," 125. 


more closely aligned with Deuteronomy 6-11.'* These chapters convey 
the idea that God should be our first priority and final authority, and 
that we owe him preference and obedience. 

There are two direct statements of God's authority in this sec- 
tion. The first is in 6:4 where the well-known shema presents yhwh, 
and YHWH alone, as God. The second direct statement is in 10:17 
which speaks of yhwh as the God of Gods, the Lord of Lords, and 
the great, mighty and awesome God. Besides these direct statements, 
several explicit warnings against worshiping other gods not only 
speak of the authority of yhwh, but seem to demonstrate that 
Commandment 1 is under discussion (6:13-14; 7:3-5; 9:19-20; 10:20- 
21; 11:16). Rather than discussing the implications of the First Com- 
mandment in legislative terms, these chapters give examples of ways 
that adherence to the First Commandment can be demonstrated. 
Included here are the exhortations to love God (6:5; 10:12; 11:1, 13, 
22) and to obey his commandments (6:6, 17, 24-25; 7:11-12; 8:1, 6; 
10:12-13; 11:1, 8, 13, 18, 22), along with warnings against testing the 
Lord (6:16; 10:16). Finally, in Deuteronomy 6-11 Moses spends 
much time reminding the reader of how God has proven or will prove 
himself worthy of the respect and status that he demands. For exam- 
ple, Moses states that Israel is chosen and loved (7:6-8; 10:14-15), 
that Israel has been multiplied in keeping with the covenant promises 
(10:22), and that Israel was delivered out of Egypt (6:21-23; 7:19; 
8:2-5, 14-16; 11:2-7). Furthermore, God is able to bring prosperity 
(6:10-12; 7:13-15; 8:7-13; 11:10-15) and drive out the enemy (6:19; 
7:1-2, 16-18, 20-24; 9:1-6; 11:23-25) if the conditions of obedience 
are met. While these chapters appear at first glance to be somewhat 
rambling, it seems that the concept of God's authority and priority 
serves as a common denominator and provides a key to understand- 
ing the thoughts that are expressed. 

In Commandment 5, human authority is the issue. The deuter- 
onomic treatment of the commandment, however, does not focus on 
how we are to respond to human authority as much as it addresses 
how human authority is to conform to divine authority. It speaks of 
the exercise of divine authority in the human realm. The main role of 
human authority that is emphasized is instruction. 

In the commandment proper (Deut 5:16), parents are seen as the 
basic link for the communication of instruction and for the repre- 
sentation of divine authority. The honor given to parents is put in the 

''This was initially the suggestion of my colleague William Luck. For this and 
numerous other insights gleaned from our hours of discussion and reflected throughout 
this paper I am deeply indebted to him. 


context of preservation of the covenant ("that you may Uve long in 
the land"), and that preservation is accomplished in the instruction of 
children by the parents. This commandment attempts to cover a weak 
link: if parental instruction is not heeded, the covenant's benefits are 
in jeopardy. 

The deuteronomic treatment of Commandment 5 (Deut 16:18- 
17:13) does not speak of the role of parents, but moves to a discus- 
sion of other forms of human authority. It has the appearance of a 
national application of the Fifth Commandment. Each section speaks 
of the way in which the various authorities could place the covenant 
benefits in jeopardy by identifying the weakest link — the ways in 
which each office can fail in carrying out its responsibility before 

The first group treated is the judges who are seen as responsible 
for enforcing the covenant (17:2-7). Each time a sentence is passed 
there is an opportunity for instruction. The weak link here would 
occur if the judges were not preserving the integrity of the system. So 
the text speaks of bribes that distort justice (16:19-20), verdicts that 
are not enforced (17:10-12), and cases where instruction was not 
heeded (17:10-12) or the lesson was not learned (17:13). These appear 
to be the weak links in the authority/ instruction chain that could put 
the covenant's benefits in jeopardy. 

The next office to be treated is that of the king (Deut 17:14-20). 
The king is viewed as God's representative and is held responsible for 
the people in the sense that he should set up a system that conforms 
to the requirements of the covenant. He is thereby seen as the admin- 
istrator of the covenant. The weak links occur when he becomes 
preoccupied with the accoutrements of office (vv 16-17) or when he 
fails to observe the law. Either of these situations can cause him 
to fail in setting up an administration that supports the covenant. 
Instruction here takes place through modeling. The king models 
godliness to the people by governing in a way that conforms to the 
requirements of the covenant. 

The priests and Levites had the responsibility of serving, which 
included teaching the people (17:10-12). Deut 18:1-8 speaks of the 
support of the priests and Levites by the populace. The weak link 
here is that if the priests were not supported they could not function 
and the covenant would be in jeopardy. 

The last group is the prophets (18:9-22). They had the respon- 
sibility of passing on God's messages, and thus were involved in both 
the authority of God and in instruction. The weakest links occur if 
wrong authority is used (e.g., divination, vv 9-14), if the people fail to 
heed the prophet's words (v 19), or if the prophet speaks his own 
words rather than God's (v 20). 


In dealing with these four groups, the biblical author moves 
backwards through the line of authority which starts with God com- 
municating his instructions to the people through the prophets. After 
this, the priests have the responsibility of instructing the people 
concerning the word of God, and then the kings have the responsi- 
bility of setting up and maintaining a system based on the instructions 
given by God. Finally, the judges have the responsibility of enforcing 
the system that has been set up. 

Deuteronomy may be seen to warn of areas where the covenant 
could be jeopardized through a break in the chain of authority and 
instruction. Human authorities need to be honored in that they serve 
as an important link in communicating God's instructions to his 
people. On the other hand, it is the responsibility of human author- 
ities not to corrupt their offices by losing sight of their primary 


Commandment 2 appears to be reflected in Deut 12:1-32. The 
key verse is v 4: "You shall not treat the Lord your God that way." 
This chapter addresses the fact that Israel was not to use the things or 
places that were part of Canaanite worship. The Israelites were not to 
worship YHWH in the same way that the Canaanites worshiped their 
gods. This, of course, is directly related to the ban on the use of 
images that is the Second Commandment. The treatment in Deuter- 
onomy confirms that the ban on images specifically concerns images 
of YHV^H, and it further clarifies that the prohibition of images is 
intended to be understood in the context of worship. 

It is easy to understand the concern that God has for the Israelites 
as they enter a land infested with Canaanites. Syncretism is the path 
of least resistance. So rather than allowing the Canaanite sanctuaries 
to be converted, only a central sanctuary is sanctioned. This would 
serve to assure homogeneity of religious practice and set up a priestly 
control of popular practice. Both of these factors would help guard 
against syncretism. This is especially evident with regard to the ritual 
elements where the closest monitoring was needed. Deut 12:30-31 
again make this clear: "beware that you are not ensnared to follow 
after them . . . and that you do not inquire after their gods saying, 
'How do these nations serve their gods, that I also may do likewise?' 
You shall not behave this way." 

The main thrust of the deuteronomic treatment, then, concerns 
how the ritual aspect of worship takes place. The Israelites are 
instructed not to repeat pagan rituals (of which images are a large 
part), and a central sanctuary is to be estabhshed to monitor the 


ritual practice. The concern is that the ritual must reflect the true and 
unique nature of yhwh rather than accommodating the pagan stan- 
dards in the world around them. The dignity of yhwh is jeopardized 
when he is treated as the pagans treat their deities. The point is that 
ritual is performed for the recognizing of no one else but yhwh. 
Thus, ritual should never accommodate the world's standards. Rather, 
all ritual must reflect true worship on the part of the individual. True 
worship cannot take place if ritual becomes an end in itself. True 
worship must give God his proper place. It cannot be manipulative or 
self-serving, for that robs God of the dignity that the worship is 
intended to recognize. 

Corresponding to Commandment 2 and its concern with the 
preservation of the dignity of God are three commandments (6, 7 and 
8) that are concerned with preserving the dignity of man. Com- 
mandment 6 appears to be treated in Deut 19:1-21:23. This section, 
for the most part, seeks to delineate what is really behind the prohibi- 
tion against murder by discussing some of the instances in which life 
is being taken, but where murder has not been committed. As a result 
we find sections on the following: 

1. Accidental homicide and the connected discussion of the function 
of the levitical cities (19:1-13); 

2. The requirement of two witnesses in a capital case (since capital 
punishment involves the taking of a life and the witnesses are 
implicated in the taking of life; 19:15); 

3. The treatment of malicious witnesses (19:16-20) who are put to 
death if the case is a capital case; 

4. The lex talionis as a protection against a judicial taking of life 
where the crime would not call for that serious a punishment 

Chap. 20 then proceeds to discuss the rules for warfare, another 
situation in which life is being taken, but the commandment is not 
being broken. In chap. 21, miscellaneous issues are treated such as 
caring for bloodguilt when the murderer is unknown. This dem- 
onstrates that the issue of murder must be dealt with not only on the 
level of punishing the murderer, but also in terms of absolving blood- 
guilt on the land (21:1-9). Also mentioned are the guidelines for 
deaUng with the rebeUious child (21:18-21) and for the treatment of a 
capital punishment victim (21:22-23). The prohibition of murder is 
designed to protect the dignity of the individual from a minimalist 
perspective. That is, everyone deserves the dignity of existence. Deu- 
teronomy appears to be suggesting exceptions to that general rule. A 
murderer has forfeited his right to that dignity, and war is another 
matter altogether. In this section there are also portions that do not 


fit this commandment easily, though they can be seen to impact the 
dignity issue (19:14; 21:10-17). These will require more study. 

Commandment 7, which would seem to connect with 22:1-23:14, 
is one of the most difficult to fit together. Chap. 22:1-12 deals with a 
number of diverse issues, some of which can be tied to dignity, some 
of which seem more suitable to the issue of integrity, and some which 
do not seem to fit well at all. This sort of development always causes 
one to question his own system of organization. However, the appar- 
ently smooth operation of the classification system throughout the 
rest of the material leads to the hope that this is merely a case of the 
elusive nature of these specific examples. Perhaps others will be able 
to suggest suitable solutions. 

Deut 22:12-30 treats the various types of adultery including 
inferred adultery (13-21), simple adultery (22), rape (23-29), and 
incest (30). These all threaten the dignity of the family. Chap. 23:1-14 
speaks of the relationship of emasculated, illegitimate, and foreign 
individuals to the assembly, as well as the matter of cleanness in the 
camp. These both have to do with preserving the dignity of the camp. 

Commandment 8, the prohibition against stealing, seems to be 
treated in Deut 23:15-24:7 with regard to preserving the dignity of 
individuals. By his treatment of the issue, the author attempts to deal 
with the question of why stealing is wrong. By seeing dignity as the 
basic element behind the prohibition, he is able to discuss other areas 
that are impacted by the commandment. Deut 23:15-20 speaks of 
stealing intangible things. The case of the foreign slave who has 
escaped to the land is a situation where Israelites are prohibited from 
stealing his freedom (a dignity issue). Deut 23:17-18, in singUng out 
daughters and sons, implies that these individuals are being forced 
into prostitution, thus having their self-respect stolen. Deut 23:19-20 
forbids the charging of interest within the institution of debt slavery in 
that that is like stealing the interest from the debtor, as well as 
robbing him of the ability to recover. Again, in the end, this robs him 
of his self-respect. 

Deut 23:21-23 speaks of stealing from God by not paying one's 
vows. This seems unusual in the context of preserving human dignity, 
and, as yet, the reason for its being here has not been identified. 

Deut 23:24-25 attempts to draw the line concerning what is 
stealing and what is not by giving a guideline for picking food on 
someone else's property. It also serves to preserve the dignity of poor 
travelers who gain their subsistence in this way. 

Deut 24:1-4 covers the well-known case where a man is pro- 
hibited from remarrying a woman whom he has divorced and who 
has been married to someone else in the meantime. Here the legisla- 
tion does not treat the issue of divorce but rather appears to be 


concerned about preserving the woman's self-respect by forbidding 
that she be treated as a piece of property. The indecency found in her 
(v 1) cannot be adultery, for the text has affirmed in the previous 
chapter that adultery is a capital crime. Rather, the indecency ought 
to be considered a matter of technicality^ that the husband is using as 
an excuse to discard the woman. This would again be an issue of 
stealing her dignity from her. 

Deut 24:5-6 speaks of stealing the things that are essential for 
survival. Military conscription of a newly-married man is depriving 
the new wife of her conjugal rights and of the privilege of bearing 
children (for her new husband might be slain in battle). Likewise, the 
theft of major food-producing implements is more than theft of 
goods, it is the steahng of an individual's ability to provide for 
himself and his family. Thus the issue of stealing is expanded far 
beyond the confines of the simple notion of taking some object that 
belongs to someone else. Most of this section deals with intangibles 
and is concerned with the dignity, rights, and self-respect of others 
which must not be violated. This is emphasized again in the last 
prohibition of this section. 

Deut 24:7 deals with kidnapping. It is interesting to note, how- 
ever, that it treats only one specific kidnapping situation. That is, it 
identifies kidnapping as a capital crime when it is either connected 
with violence or with the sale of the kidnapped individual. Presum- 
ably if neither of these related crimes occurred, kidnapping would not 
be a capital crime. Kidnapping in general was prohibited by the 
Eighth Commandment without further elaboration. But here the 
legislation is protecting the dignity of the kidnapped individual even 
further by placing a stricter punishment on anyone who would abuse 
the victim. 

^The nm mij; referred to in Deut 24:1 could not be adultery, for 22:22 has just 
condemned the adulterer to death. The term is used elsewhere only in Deut 23:14 where 
it describes the situation in which excrement is not properly cared for. It is significant 
also that the woman is not prevented from remarrying, and there is no prohibition 
against the first husband remarrying the woman if another marriage has not inter- 
vened. Likewise, the woman is not "defiled" if she marries anyone but the first 
husband. The verbal stem used to reflect the defilement in v 4 is the unusual hothpa'^al, 
which appears to involve passive, causative, and reflexive or durative elements. For this 
reason, I would interpret the defilement as something that would be brought upon her 
by her first husband should he attempt to remarry her. This is treated under Com- 
mandment 8 which suggests that Deut 24:1 is not dealing with a sexual sin per se, but 
with a situation in which the woman has been robbed of her dignity. A possibility is 
that the husband has used a menstrual dysfunction as a legal loophole and excuse to 
divorce the woman. After this kind of humiliation, he is prevented from acting as if it 
never happened and "graciously" taking her back again. The second marriage is 
brought into the case as the indicator that the first husband totally repudiated the 



Commandments 3 and 9 seem to deal with the issue of com- 
mitment. These two commandments have often been identified to- 
gether because of the similarity of their subject matter, and this 
schema supports even further that connection. 

Commandment 3 seems to be treated in Deut 13:1-14:21 and 
addresses in various ways the problem of not taking God seriously 
enough or not taking one's relationship, commitment, or obligations 
to God seriously enough, which is part of the same problem. 

Deut 13:1-5 concern the false prophet. The false prophet's activ- 
ity is identified in v 3 as a test from God, "to find out if you love the 
Lord your God with all your heart." If an individual is serious about 
God, the described behavior will be offensive and intolerable. The end 
of V 5 makes it clear that the concern is to "purge evil from among 
you." Commandment 3 speaks of how God treats those who do not 
take him seriously ("God will not hold him guiltless"). This chapter 
follows up on that by suggesting that if one is not offended by those 
who do not take God or their commitment to God seriously, then he 
is guilty along with them. He should not hold them guiltless or he 
becomes an accomplice. If he tolerates wicked behavior and fails to 
purge it out, he is not taking God seriously. The enticement to 
worship other gods is used here as an example — any wicked behavior 
would qualify. 

In vv 6-11, wickedness even in one's relatives or friends should 
not be tolerated. It is suggested in vv 12-18 that even if a whole town 
is involved, there should be no mercy. So whether the offender is a 
highly respected religious authority, a good friend, or a large group of 
people, wicked behavior cannot be tolerated. 

Chap. 13 uses the hypothetical case of the most blatant and basic 
offense — enticement to serve other gods. In that case, being serious 
about a relationship with God requires immediate and total purging. 
In contrast, chap. 4 uses a hypothetical case of something that is 
tangential and subtle. 

Chap. 14 is, of course, the section concerning the dietary laws. 
Wenham, following the research of Douglas, an anthropologist, has 
suggested that "holiness requires that individuals shall conform to the 
class to which they belong."^ The unclean animals are those that in 
one way or another fail to conform to the expectations of the animal 
group to which they belong. Concerning the restriction on the Isra- 
elites to eat only clean animals, Wenham explains, 

^Gordon Wenham, "The Theology of Unclean Food," The Evangelical Quarterly 
53 (1981) 1 1. My thanks to my colleague, Dennis Magary, for bringing this article to 
my attention. 


Their diet was limited to certain meats in imitation of their God, who 
had restricted his choice among the nations to Israel. It served, too, to 
bring to mind Israel's responsibilities to be a holy nation. As they 
distinguished between clean and unclean foods, they were reminded 
that holiness was more than a matter of meat and drink but a way of 
life characterized by purity and integrity.^ 

The connection here would be that while seriousness about God 
requires severe action in blatant cases (chap 13), it requires a response 
that is above reproach in the subtle cases ("gray areas"). In many 
cases there would have been nothing innately wrong with eating the 
listed animals, but the truly committed person would demonstrate his 
commitment to God even in his diet. This is holiness through symbol 
and analogy (not unhke baptism). In chap. 13 the preaching of an 
individual was leading the people astray, and the person who was 
preaching needed to be put to death if God was to be taken seriously. 
In chap. 14 the practice of an individual is an indicator of that 
individual's commitment to God and holiness in his life. This is an 
important step for the person who is taking his relationship to God 

Commandment 3 is paralleled by Commandment 9 which treats 
three areas: 

1. Taking your commitments to your fellow man seriously; 

2. Assuming that he is going to take his commitment to you 

3. Not making false accusations. 

The common denominator between these areas and the decalogue's 
injunction against bearing false witness is the matter of trust — trusting 
one another to do what has been agreed upon. This is the important 
issue in the case of false witness. It was frequently impossible to 
determine by objective means whether an individual was telling the 
truth in court cases. The entire justice system, and therefore the whole 
fabric of society, was dependent on being able to trust the word of a 
witness. For trust to exist in a society, individuals must have the 
confidence that commitments are being taken seriously. 

The section in Deuteronomy that deals with this commandment 
is Deut 24:8-16, though others would extend the section as far as 
Deut 25:4. The verses in question, 24:17-25:4 could fit with either 
commandment and may serve as a transition section, but it seems to 
fit better into the Commandment 10 discussion. 

Deut 24:8-9 introduces the section by referring to the example of 
Miriam. Here, a case of false accusation against Moses is adduced to 

'ibid., 12. 


remind the reader of the strict punishment that may accompany a 
violation of this commandment. 

Deut 24:10-13 deals with the handling of a situation where an 
individual is the holder of his poor neighbor's pledge. The reader is 
admonished not to act in such a way that he would betray a lack of 
trust in his neighbor. He is not to think so poorly of his neighbor as 
to protect himself against the neighbor's not fulfilUng his pledge. This 
is the same kind of statement that in Commandment 3 admonished 
the reader not to imagine that God would not defend things that were 
said in his name. 

Deut 24:14-15 instructs the Israelites concerning pledges and 
agreements. Everyone has the obligation to establish his own trust- 
worthiness by carrying out the agreements he has made, and even 
further, by being sensitive to the needs of those who are depending on 
him to meet their needs. 

Deut 24:16 prohibits punishing someone for a crime that he did 
not commit. To punish an innocent person is like bearing false 
witness against him. 


Commandments 4 and 10 speak of rights and privileges. Com- 
mandment 4 speaks of God's rights, and Commandment 10 addresses 
the issue of human rights. 

In the decalogue, the focus in Commandment 4 is on the Sab- 
bath. God has a right to be honored through the dedication of a 
special day to him in gratitude for his deliverance of Israel from 
Egypt (Deuteronomy 5) and in remembrance of his creative work 
(Exodus 20). Deuteronomy seems to pick up from that point by 
discussing other things one might dedicate to God in gratitude or 
commemoration to honor him. Deut 14:22-16:17 suggests showing 
gratitude to God as the source of one's goods (tying into Creation) 
and as the source of one's freedom (tying into the Exodus) by dedi- 
cating some of one's goods to him and by becoming a source of goods 
and freedom to others in his name. 

In this connection Deut 14:22-29 begins by discussing the tithe. 
This is giving a portion of one's goods back to God in gratitude. 
Every third year this tithe is to go to the support of the community. 
Other elements of this section include the following: 

1. During the seventh year no payment is to be expected toward 
long term debts of fellow Israelites (15:1-3). This is an act of 
compassion because observance of the fallow year would mean 
that there was no guaranteed income that year. 

2. WilUngly lending to the poor among Israel (15:4-1 1) 


3. A six year limit to debt slavery of a fellow Hebrew is set 

4. Firstling sacrifice (15:19-23) 

5. Passover (16:1-8) 

6. Feast of weeks and first fruits (16:9-12) 

7. Feast of Booths (16:13-15) 

All of these involve the setting apart of time or goods to give honor 
to God in gratitude. This is the right of God and our privilege: he 
demands of us goods and acts of compassion, just as he provides 
goods and acts of compassion. 

Commandment 10 in the decalogue admonishes against coveting. 
Coveting something is desiring something that does not belong to 
one. It oversteps the bounds of what one has a right to possess. 
Deuteronomy appears to expand this thinking into the whole area of 
violating the rights and privileges of others. The rights of others are 
to be preserved just as the rights of God needed to be preserved in the 
Fourth Commandment. 

Deut 24:17-18 speaks of the right to justice — the basic right of 
all, even those who are most vulnerable. In connection to this, the 
Israelites are reminded of the time when they lost all their rights (in 
Egypt). The reminder occurs elsewhere in the Deuteronomic code 
only in the parallel section elaborating Commandment 4 (5:15; 15:15; 

Deut 24:19-22 deals with the right of the poor to the leftovers of 
the harvest. Deut 25:1-3 speaks of the right of the innocent that 
punishment be made in full and the right of the guilty that a limit be 
set for being beaten. Deut 25:4 speaks of the right of the ox. Deut 
25:5-10 deals with the institution of levirate marriage — a protection 
of the rights of the dead brother's family. Deut 25:11-12 addresses 
the violation of the rights of the individual who is being attacked. His 
right to bear children is being threatened without due process. Deut 
25:13-16 speaks of the right to fair treatment in the marketplace. 
Deut 25:17-19 uses the example of the Amalekites' taking unfair 
advantage of the vulnerable ones in the wilderness. 

Finally, 26:1-15 addresses the issue of first fruits as a way of 
remembering the rights and privileges that the Israelites were enjoying 
that their forefathers did not enjoy. There is also a stress on the third 
year tithe, which should be considered a right of the poor. 

The commandment itself, then, has focused on coveting as a 
violation of the rights that others have to their own property. The 
Deuteronomic treatment moves beyond this to the basic issues of 
human rights, justice and fair treatment. 



Based on this preliminary study, it is suggested that a working 
hypothesis may be estabhshed that views the deuteronomic law (chaps. 
6-26) as an expansion of the decalogue with the intent of addressing 
the spirit of the law. That is, the decalogue has implications con- 
cerning conduct that far transcend the limited number of issues that it 
addresses directly. The author is accomplishing this task by choosing 
exemplary cases that are intended to highlight the attitudes implied 
by the initial commandment. In other words, the author is presenting 
implications of the decalogue by developing a legislative portfolio for 
each of the commands — all with the express purpose of moving 
beyond legalism to a truer understanding of God's concerns and 
requirements. This then is much the same as what Christ does in the 
Sermon on the Mount. When the Lord extrapolates from the com- 
mandment against murder to the idea that hateful anger falls into the 
category of murder (Matt 5:21-22), he is continuing the deuterono- 
mic treatment of the decalogue that has been suggested herein. 
Morality is more than a list of rules. The spirit of those rules must be 
discerned and heeded. Both Moses in Deuteronomy and Christ in the 
Sermon on the Mount show that the prohibition against murder is a 
prohibition against things murderous, whether attitudes or actions. 

While much more work is needed, if this working hypothesis is 
true, it implies that the Deuteronomic code is relevant to the church 
because it elucidates not the letter but the spirit of the law. While the 
law in some ways has passed away, the validity of the spirit behind 
the law can never pass away, for it is a reflection of an absolute 

Grace TheologicalJournal S.2 {19S7) 227-39 


Walt Russell 

C. H. Dodd, in The Interpretation of the Fourth Gospel, errs in 
acceding to Bultmann's influence by attributing much of Johannine 
theology to Hellenistic thought, especially in the realm of pneuma- 
tology. Actually, John's theology of the Spirit is based on themes 
found in OT eschatological passages, themes that are shared by John 
with the rest of the NT, especially Luke-Acts. When one examines 
the themes of Messiah 's baptism of others with the Holy Spirit, the 
Spirit's own regenerating work as he incorporates believers into 
Messiah's kingdom, and the Spirit's enabling of Messiah's followers 
to proclaim the Gospel, it is clear that John (along with the NT in 
general) shares these ideas with the OT prophets and has not imbibed 
them from Hellenistic sources. 


IN his monumental work, The Interpretation of the Fourth Gospel, 
C. H. Dodd concludes that the author of the fourth gospel faith- 
fully reproduces the main articles of the tradition of Jewish escha- 
tology dealing with God's TrveCiaa. This tradition understood that the 
Messiah, or the people of God in the age to come, or both, would be 
invested with the divine Tiveij^a in the sense of prophetic inspiration 
(John 1:32-33; 3:34; 7:39; 14:16-17; 20:22).' Dodd then states: "It 
does not however follow that the meaning he attached to the term 
7rv£0|ia coincided exactly with its meaning in other NT writings."^ 
Dodd argues that while John's usage may have had roots in a Hebrew 
mindset, it ended up largely compatible with Hellenistic thought.^ He 
then concludes: 

'C. H. Dodd, The Interpretation of the Fourth Gospel (Cambridge: Cambridge 
University, 1953) 222. 
'Ibid., 223-26. 


Accordingly, the gift of the Spirit to the Church is represented, not as 
if it were a separate outpouring of divine power under the forms of 
wind and fire (as in the Acts), but as the ultimate climax of the 
personal relations between Jesus and His disciples: 8vs(puar|aEV Kai 
Xejei auToii;, Xa^exe nvsOna ayiou ["He breathed on them and said, 
'Receive the Holy Spirit.'"] (John 20:22)/ 

Such an understanding is increasingly popular in this existential 
age. Dodd certainly heightens its appeal with amazing erudition by 
drawing out some of the unique Johannine nuances of the Person and 
work of the Holy Spirit. 

However, it is the thesis of this article that in contrast to Dodd 
the view of the Holy Spirit in John's gospel^ is essentially the same as 
that in the rest of the NT — especially Luke-Acts. While John uses 
more intimate and personal language, both he and Luke nevertheless 
speak consistently of the Holy Spirit in the terminology of OT 
eschatology. This common backdrop results in a Lucan and Johannine 
sharing of at least two themes: that the giving of the Spirit in- 
augurates a new age centered in Messiah and his eschatological 
program, and that the Spirit empowers believers to engage in a 
"prophetic" and universal ministry of proclaiming the gospel.^ This 
view directly counters the view championed by Bultmann which 
attributes Johannine terminology to Hellenistic influence.^ While 
Dodd also sought to oppose this view, he nonetheless made some 
concessions to it. The discovery of Johannine-type terminology in the 
pristine Jewish atmosphere of Qumran now reveals such concessions 
to be patently erroneous. As Brown has said. 

The critical import of the parallels between the Scrolls and John is that 
one can no longer insist that the abstract language spoken by Jesus in 
the Fourth Gospel must have been composed in the Greek world of the 

"ibid., 227. Translation is mine. 

^While I believe that the author of the fourth gospel was the Apostle John, 
proving this position is considerably beyond the scope of this article. Therefore, the use 
of "John" can be taken simply as the traditionally-used name for the author. See 
L. Morris, Studies in the Fourth Gospel {Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1969) 215-92, and 
L. Morris, The Gospel According to John (NICNT; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1971) 
8-30, for recent defenses of this ancient view. See also the remarkable defense of the 
Apostle John's authorship in J. A. T. Robinson, The Priority of John, ed. by J. F. 
Coakley (London: SCM, 1985). 

*See W. Russell, "The Anointing with the Holy Spirit in Luke-Acts," TrinJ NS 7 

See particularly R. Bultmann, Theology of the New Testament (New York: 
Scribner's, 1951) 2.3-92, and R. Bultmann, 77?^ Gospel of John, A Commentary 
(Philadelphia: Westminster, 1971). 


early second century a.d. What Jesus says in John would have been 
quite intelligible in the sectarian background of first-century Palestine/ 

Thus, Dodd's acknowledging of Hellenistic philosophy — especially 
Platonic thought — as a significant influence upon John's categories is 
a syncretism that never occurred. These categories apparently appeared 
in both John and Qumran from the common source of OT escha- 
tology. This is not to deny that John wrote in a manner sensitive to 
the Gentile Hellenists who were a part of his audience,^ but it is to 
affirm that Dodd (and Bultmann) overstated the ideological impact 
that this sensitivity had on John's gospel — especially regarding the 
Spirit. This article will explore John's systematic presentation of the 
Holy Spirit from the perspective of OT Messianic expectation, inter- 
acting with Dodd's position and others as the discussion progresses. 


The Messiah's baptism of others with the Holy Spirit distin- 
guishes the messianic age from the present one (John 1:32-33; 3:34). 
John 1:19-51 is the Evangelist's treatment of the ministry of John 
the Baptist and of some of his disciples. The pivotal event is Jesus' 
baptism, and it is treated in similar fashion to the synoptics, ^° yet 
with Johannine uniqueness. For example, the Baptist's identification 
of Jesus as the Lamb of God (v 29), the emphasis on Jesus' pre- 
existence over the Baptist (vv 30-31), the fact that the Spirit "re- 
mained" [e^istvev] on Jesus (v 32), and the retrospective narration of 
the baptism (vv 32-34) are not found in the synoptics. If John is 
writing a later and supplementary gospel (as most commentators 
recognize), these new insights are significant. 

Perhaps most important for this discussion, however, is the 
account recording the transfer of loyalty to Jesus by some of 
the Baptist's disciples. Given the widespread existence of the 

*R. Brown, "The Dead Sea Scrolls and the New Testament," in John and Qumran, 
ed. James H. Charlesworth (London: Geoffrey Chapman, 1972) 8. 

'Cf. W. Nicoll, "The History of Johannine Research during the Past Century," 
Neotestamentica 6 (1972) 13: "Many leading scholars recently expressed the opinion 
that the Mid-East was permeated with a kind of pre-Gnosticism in the first century and 
that the Fourth Gospel shows a general relatedness to it ... If a Gnostic feeUng of life 
therefore formed the climate in the city or town of the Fourth Evangelist, it is to be 
expected that his preaching would show signs of his using the language of his 
environment . . . aimed at convincing hearers with a Gnostic frame of mind." 

'"Cf. S. S. Smalley, "Salvation Proclaimed VIII. John 1:29-34," ExpTim 93 (1982) 
327: "Like the synoptic writers, the gift of the Spirit is seen by the author of John's 
gospel as an act of consecration, showing that Jesus is both royal Messiah (cf. Isa 
11:1-5; 61:1-3) and suffering, messianic Servant of God (cf. Isa 42: 1-4)." 


master/ disciple relationship in both the Greek and Jewish cultures of 
the Mediterranean world," this transfer of loyalty was pregnant with 
meaning to John's readers. Certainly Jewish readers would under- 
stand that Jesus' authority now superseded the authority of the first 
great prophet in Israel in over four hundred years (cf. 1:19-21). To 
emphasize this, the gospel writer speaks only of John's baptism in 
terms of its water content (v 31), while contrasting it to Jesus' baptism 
with the Holy Spirit (v 33). John's water baptism was for Israel (v 31) 
and places him in continuity with the present age. Messiah's perma- 
nent possession of the Holy Spirit (v 32) and his baptizing of others 
with the Spirit signals the beginning of the long-awaited Messianic 
Age (Isa 11:1-2; 42:1; 48:16; 59:21; 61:1-2; and Isa 32:15; 44:3-5; 
Ezek 18:31; 36:25-27; 37:14; 39:39; Joel 2:28-32). The significance for 
those who follow Messiah is that they will now take part in the era 
characterized by the Spirit being given without measure (John 3:34).'^ 
Therefore, the transfer of loyalty by John the Baptist's disciples was a 
significant step. They would partake of the prophesied eschatological 
baptism of the Spirit and speak of it, not of their former teacher's 
baptism of repentance. As prophetic trainees, if you will, they entered 
into the new realm of the abiding Spirit when they chose to follow 
Jesus the Messiah. 


While the sacramental^^ and physiological interpretations^"* of 
Jesus' conversation with the Pharisee Nicodemus persist, these views 
tend to blend together how Nicodemus would understand Jesus' 
words and how John wanted his readers to understand them. As 
Dodd has noted, '^ the overarching theme of John 2-4 is "The New 

"See K. H. Rengstorf, "naOriTfii;," TDNT{\967) 4.415-61, for a good overview of 
the Greek and Jewish understanding of being a "disciple." 

''Dodd, Interpretation, 310-11, confesses an inability to determine whether God 
the Father or God the Son is the giver of "the Spirit without measure" in John 3:34, 
while C. K. Barrett sees the sense of the passage as referring to God the Father giving 
the Spirit to Jesus {The Gospel According to John [2nd ed; Philadelphia: Westminster, 
1979] 226). Barrett's view fits the context of John 3 and underscores the fact that Jesus 
is given the authority to baptize with the eschatological gift of the Holy Spirit because 
the Father has given the Spirit without measure to him. 

'^See R. E. Brown, The Gospel According to John 1-12 (AB 29; Garden City: 
Doubleday & Co., 1966) 137-44 for a discussion of recent adherents of this 

"See M. Pamment, "A Short Note on John 3:5," Nov T 25 (1983) 189-90 for a 
recent defense of this interpretation. For a differing understanding of this passage, see 
R. W. Paschal, "Sacramental Symbolism and Physical Imagery in the Gospel of John," 
7>«fiM/32(1981) 159-61. 

'^Dodd, Interpretation, 297-317. 


Beginning" that Jesus has brought. His new order transcends Judaism 
as represented by Nicodemus and the exact nature of this newness 
seems to be the crux of the discussion between Jesus and this Pharisee. 
In the course of the conversation, both Nicodemus's misunderstand- 
ing'^ and Jesus' expressions of double meaning'^ play significant roles 
in giving this dialogue its enduring quality. Nicodemus is functioning 
out of a concrete, Old Covenant mindset greatly supplemented by 
many decades of authoritative oral traditions. Jesus speaks from the 
perspective of the new beginning of the eschatological age that he 
inaugurates in this era of the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit. 

At issue with this Sanhedrin Pharisee is entrance into this age — 
Messiah's kingdom (3:3). To enter one must be born from above 
(dvcoGsv). Nicodemus understands this very concretely as born again — 
an equally plausible meaning for avtoBev. Jesus' paraphrasing of 
"born from above" is to be "born of water and the Spirit" in 3:5. 

How would Nicodemus (and the readers) most naturally under- 
stand this? It seems inescapable that "water" in both contexts must 
refer to purification from sin and defilement. Not only did John the 
Baptist's baptism build on this understanding, but Pharisaic ritual 
washings were a foundational part of their life of table fellowship (cf. 
Mark 7:1-23). John's readers had already been informed of the 
Pharisaic need for an abundant amount of water for this purification 
(John 2:6). Therefore, it seems rather straightforward of Jesus to use 
this common symbol. Under the Old Covenant the Pharisees had 
taken the priestly cleansings with water (e.g.. Lev 16:4), democratized 
them, and thereby carried them to an absurd end. Jesus previously 
commented on what he thought of their abundant use of water by 
turning it into Messianic wine (John 2:1-11)! This gives an ironic 
twist to Jesus' mentioning of the need for water to Nicodemus. 

However, much more important than irony is Jesus' point that 
the water needed is not Old Covenant water (which is now wine!), but 
New Covenant water. Jesus' use of water and Spirit with Nicodemus 
must have immediately brought to mind one of the clearest OT 
passages on the inauguration of the New Covenant Age — Ezek 36:25- 
27. Jesus' point seems to be that purification by water is needed to 
enter the kingdom of God, but it is not by water "from below" used 
by the Pharisees, but water "from above" that only God can send. 
The whole thrust of Ezekiel's prophecy seems to be that God will 

'^See M. de Jonge, "Nicodemus and Jesus: Some Observations on Misunder- 
standing and Understanding in the Fourth Gospel," BJRL 53 (1970-71) 337-59 and 
D. A. Carson, "Understanding Misunderstandings in the Fourth Gospel," TynBul 33 

'^For a recent study see E. Richard, "Expressions of Double Meaning and Their 
Function in the Gospel of John," A^r^ 31 (1985) 96-1 12. 


inaugurate the New Covenant form of his kingdom with Israel by 
pouring out water from above for cleansing (Ezek 36:25) and by 
pouring out his Spirit from above for a new obedience (Ezek 36:26- 
27). This heavenly outpouring is the prior necessity to entering the 
kingdom under the New Covenant. Isaiah echoes this in 44:1-5 when 
he states: "For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on 
the dry ground; I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring and my 
blessing on your descendants" (v 3). The prophet goes on to say: 
"One will say, T belong to the Lord,' another will call himself by the 
name of Jacob; still another will write on his hand, 'The Lord's,' and 
will take the name Israel" (v 5). God's heavenly outpouring is the 
precursor to Israel's full possession of his kingdom blessings.'^ 

The gospel writer reinforces this understanding about the Holy 
Spirit in John 4:24 and 6:63. In 4:24 while speaking with the 
Samaritan woman, Jesus asserts the universality of New Covenant 
worship for all peoples. Such worship is decentralized geographically 
(not in Jerusalem or at Mt. Gerizim) and centralized personally. 
Worship is mediated through the person of the Holy Spirit to ensure 
its truthfulness for all peoples. In this age of the abiding Spirit, he 
aids anyone who genuinely wants to worship God, regardless of their 
ethnic group or geographical location. This is necessary because "it is 
the Spirit who gives life" (6:63a). Using the words that Jesus spoke, 
which are spirit and life (6:63b), the Holy Spirit bestows the life from 
above. This is the life that draws those who believe into Messiah's 


The Holy Spirit also personally enables Messiah's followers to 
proclaim his gospel to the nations like the prophets of old. The 
decentralized, universal worship of God under the New Covenant is 
mediated by the Holy Spirit under Messiah's authority as has already 
been seen in the brief, but powerful words of John 4:24. How the 
Spirit mediates the universal harvest that has already begun (4:35) is 
further explained by John (John 7:37-39; 14-16; 20:22). 

John 7:37-39 

For sheer picturesque imagery and vividness, John 7:37-39 is 
unmatched among passages about the Holy Spirit. The setting is the 

See Z. C. Hodges, "Water and Spirit— John 3:5," BSac 135 (1978) 206-20 for an 
understanding of "water and Spirit" as "water and wind." He sees Isa 44:1-5 and 
Ezek 37:9-10 as the OT proof-texts behind this double metaphor for the work of the 
Holy Spirit. 


Feast of Booths or Tabernacles (John 7:2). As many have noted, the 
liturgy of this Jewish festival was dominated by the themes of water 
and light (see m.Sukk. 3-4). '"^ Sensitive to the opportunities for 
teaching provided by these themes, Jesus apparently delivered a 
sermon on each while at the feast ("water" in John 7 and "light" in 
John 8). We also know that Zechariah 12-14 was a central passage in 
the liturgy of the festival^" — probably because the Feast of Taber- 
nacles is mentioned in the eschatological setting of Zechariah 14. This 
passage has been championed as the OT Scripture behind Jesus' 
words along with Exod 17:5-6; Num 20:7-11; Ps 78:15-16; Prov 
5:15; 18:4; Isa 12:3; 55:1; 58:11; and others.^' Some also strongly 
conjecture that Ezek 47:1-12 provided the OT backdrop for under- 
standing the daily water ceremonies during the feast. ^^ Since the 
reference to the OT in John 7:38 is singular and vague ("as the 
Scripture said"), it has been difficult choosing among the many OT 
texts relating to water and the Spirit. While there may be some 
difficulties in matching up the imagery of Zechariah 12-14 with John 
7:37-39, it still seems to be the most straightforward choice as the 
primary Scripture because of its use as a Tabernacle's haphtarah and 
its immediate familiarity to the festival hearers. 

Several scholars have suggested that the punctuation of the tra- 
ditional English translations of John 7:38 is incorrect and that Christ, 
not the believer, is the one from whom the living waters flow.^^ 
However, Cortes and others^"* have shown that such suggestions are 
inadequate and that the believer is clearly the source of the rivers of 
living water. The introductory xoCxo 5s eiTiev ("this he said") in John 
7:39 demands that the immediately preceding statement be a reference 
to the believer by Jesus and not a part of John's editorial comment. 

It well may be that Jesus used Zechariah 12-14 not only because 
it was a part of the festival liturgy, but also because it was loved by 
the Jews for its promise of judgment upon the oppressor nations 

See Dodd, Interpretation, 345-54 and particularly A. Guilding, The Fourth 
Gospel and Jewish Worship (Oxford: Clarendon, 1960), 92-120 for a full development 
of this dual theme in John 7-8. 

^°See L Abrahams, Studies in Pharisaism and the Gospels (Cambridge: Cambridge 
University, 1917, 1924; reprint ed.; New York: Ktav, 1967) 1.11-12. 

^'See Brown, The Gospel According to John 1-12, 321-23 for a discussion of 
these OT texts. 

^^For example, Z. C. Hodges, "Rivers of Living Water— John 7:37-39," BSac 139 
(1979) 239-48 and B. Grigsby, "Gematria and John 21:11— Another Look at Ezekiel 
47:10," ExpTim 95 (1984) 177-78. 

^^See Brown, The Gospel According to John, 320-21 for some of these attempts. 

"j. B. Cortes, "Yet Another Look at Jn 7:37-38," CBQ 29 (1967) 75-86; G. Fee, 
"Once More— John 7:37-39," ExpTim 89 (1978) 116-18; and Hodges, "Rivers of 
Living Water," 239-43. 


(Zech 14:1-7, 12-19). This judgment will take place when the Lord is 
King over the whole earth (14:9). He will then literally raise up 
Jerusalem (14:10), make her secure forever (14:11), and collect the 
wealth of the nations for her (14:14). Jerusalem will finally be the 
center of worship for all the nations, and they will come to her to 
celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles (14:16-21). 

Jesus' point in using such a passage is that he was soon going to 
establish his kingdom over the nations, but his agenda at the present 
time was not judgment, but gracious preaching (cf. Isa 61:1-2 in Luke 
4:16-30). At his return Jerusalem would be the cup that makes the 
nations reel and the flaming torch that ignites them in judgment 
(Zech 12:1-9). Also at that time, the spirit of grace and supplication 
would be poured out upon the house of David and the inhabitants of 
Jerusalem, and "they will look on me, the one they have pierced, and 
they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve 
bitterly for him as one grieves for a firstborn son" (14:10; cf. John 

Most significant for this discussion is the statement, "on that day 
a fountain will be opened to the house of David and the inhabitants 
of Jerusalem, to cleanse them from sin and impurity" (Zech 13:1). 
Jesus' (and John's) point seems to be that worship of the Father is 
not presently centralized around a fountain in Jerusalem, per se, but 
in the Person of Jesus the Messiah. He is the fountain that will be 
opened in Jerusalem (cf. John 19:34). As Jesus told the Samaritan 
woman, "Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of 
water weUing up to eternal life" (John 4:14). John now clarifies in his 
editorial comment that this overflowing spring/ river of living water is 
the overflow of the Holy Spirit in the life of each behever in Jesus 
(John 7:39). That is why the worship of God is now decentralized 
from Jerusalem and centralized around faith in Jesus via the media- 
tion of the Holy Spirit (John 4:24). He who comes to drink by faith 
from Jesus will himself "become an 'intermediate source' through 
whom the living waters he receives from God's son will flow."^^ In 
other words, in the terms of Zech 13:1, the nations do not have to 
come to Jerusalem for the fountain, but the personal, individual 
extensions of the Living Fountain can now overflow to the nations. ^^ 

"Hodges, "Rivers of Living Water," 243. 

^''Note that John informs the readers of his focus on the nations in this context by 
including the ironic statement of the Jews in John 7:35: "The Jews therefore said to one 
another, 'Where does this man intend to go that we shall not find Him? He is not 
intending to go to the Dispersion among the Greeks, and teach the Greeks, is He?'" 
For a recent study that sees "the Jews" in John as basically the leaders of the nation, 
see U. C. von Wahlde, "The Johannine 'Jews': A Critical Survey," NTS 28 (1982) 


Rather than judgment upon the nations, this message about the Feast 
of Tabernacles brings only good news. The overflow of the Holy 
Spirit in the lives of Messiah's followers ensures that. 

John 14-16 

The four occurrences of the term 7rapdKX,r|t0(; (John 14:16; 26; 
15:26; 16:7) in conjunction with the four occurrences of 7rvsu|ia (John 
14:17, 26; 15:26; 16:13) have aroused an enormous amount of 
scholarly debate over the last decades.^' Establishing the exact mean- 
ing of TrapdK?Lr|TO(; has been no easy task because of its rarity in 
Greek literature and its broad usage. Some have emphasized a legal 
sense and have argued for the translation "advocate" (e.g. Liddell- 
Scott, 1313; Behm in TDNT, 5.803; and the majority of Johannine 
commentators since). Some have emphasized the LXX usage and 
suggest (Eschatological) "Comforter,"^^ while others speak of the 
Paraclete as "the Spirit of Christian paraclesis [messianic procla- 
mation].""^ Brown advises transliteration because, Uke love, the term 
is "a many-splendoured thing!"^° The most reasonable solution seems 
to be that suggested recently by Grayston in his excellent diachronic 
study.^' He advocates a general, flexible term Uke "supporter" or 
"sponsor." This fits the usage of 7i;apdK}tr|TO(; from the fourth century 
B.C. to the third century a.d. and explains John's focus on various 
aspects of this broad term in his four gospel usages.^' In these 
occurrences and all others, 7rapdK}ir|TO(; is someone usually more 

" For example, see R. Bultmann, The Gospel of John, 566-72; H. Windisch, The 
Spirit- Paraclete in the Fourth Gospel, trans. J. W. Cox (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1968); 
R. E. Brown, "The Paraclete in the Fourth Gospel," NTS 13 (1966-67) 113-32; 
Barrett, The Gospel According to John, 454-55; J. Painter, "The Farewell Discourses 
and the History of Johannine Christianity," NTS 27 (1981) 525-43; F. F. Segovia, 
"The Theology and Provenance of John 15:1-17," JBL 101 (1982) 115-28; F. F. 
Segovia "John 15: 18- 16:4a: A First Addition to the Original Farewell Discourse?" 
CBQ 45 (1983) 210-30; D. B. Woll, "The Departure of 'The Way': The First Farewell 
Discourse in the Gospel of John," JBL 99 (1980) 225-39; A. R. C. Leaney, "The 
Johannine Paraclete and the Qumran Scrolls," in John and Qumran, ed. James H. 
Charlesworth (London: Geoffrey Chapman, 1972) 38-61; and A. Shafatt, "Geber of the 
Qumran Scrolls and the Spirit- Paraclete of the Gospel of John," NTS 27 (1981) 

^*J. G. Davies, "The Primary Meaning of 7iapdK?iriTog," JTS n.s. 4 (1953) 35-38. 

"Barrett, The Gospel According to John, 461-63. 

^°Brown, "The Paraclete in the Fourth Gospel," 118-19. 

"K. Grayston, "The Meaning of PARAKLETOS," JSNT 13 (1981) 67-82. 

"Brown, "The Paraclete in the Fourth Gospel," 118, summarizes how John uses 
the term to speak of a witness in defense of Jesus and a spokesman for him in his 
trial-context, a consoler of the disciples, and, most importantly, a helper of them as a 
teacher and guide. 


prominent and powerful who comes alongside to support or sponsor 
one in need — sometimes in a legal context." 

napdK>ir|tO(; is appropriate in the setting of John 14-16 because 
Jesus is commissioning the disciples to carry on his work on earth. 
More specifically, the genre appears to be that of prophetic com- 
missioning, as several have observed.^" Such an overwhelming task 
demands heavenly support and sponsorship. This Jesus provides with 
his eschatological gift to his disciples — the promised Holy Spirit — 
and his upper room teaching explains exactly how the Spirit will be 
their sponsor in the work of prophetic proclamation. This is the 
climactic purpose of the ministry of the Holy Spirit in the fourth 
gospel, and John has been building toward it since Jesus' baptism in 
John 1:32-34. Dodd misses this sense of empowering and simply 
describes John's account of the gift of the Spirit of the Church as "the 
ultimate climax of the personal relations between Jesus and His 
disciples."" Certainly, it is this, but while John speaks of the Spirit's 
bestowal in terms more intimate and personal than other NT authors, 
his pastoral language does not reveal a divergent purpose for that 
bestowal. Barrett concurs and sees the Paraclete as the Spirit of 
Christian preaching, paralleUng the well-known rabbinic description 
of the Holy Spirit as the "Spirit of prophecy."^^ Barrett's view, while 
not diminishing the personhood of the Spirit, explicitly emphasizes 
his role in sponsoring the work of prophetic proclamation. Boring 
and Isaacs, in their studies of the various functions of the OT prophet, 

G. G. Findlay, The Fellowship in Life Eternal (New York: Hodder and 
Stoughton, 1909; reprint ed.; Minneapolis: James and Klock, 1977) 117, concurs with 
this description: "The relationship of advocate and client constituted a settled personal 
tie involving acquaintanceship, and often kinship, between the parties. The 7iapdKXr|T0(; 
of the old jurisprudence, in the best times of antiquity, was no hired pleader connected 
with his client for the occasion by his brief and his fee; he was his patron and standing 
counsel, the head of the order or the clan to which both belonged, bound by the claims 
of honour and family association to stand by his humble dependent and to see him 
through when his legal standing was imperilled; he was his client's natural protector 
and the appointed captain of his salvation." 

^"For example, M. E. Boring, "The Influence of Christian Prophecy on the 
Johannine Portrayal of the Paraclete and Jesus," NTS 25 (1978) 1 13-23 and especially 
M. E. Isaacs, "The Prophetic Spirit in the Fourth Gospel," HeyJ 24 (1983) 391-407. 
See also, H. S. Benjamin, "Pneuma in John and Paul — A Comparative Study of the 
Term with Particular Reference to the Holy Spirit," BTB 6 (1976) 27-48; D. A. 
Carson, "The Function of the Paraclete in John 16:7-11," JBL 98 (1979) 547-66; and 
George Johnston, "The Spirit-Paraclete in the Gospel of John," Perspective 9 (1968) 
29-37 and The Spirit- Paraclete in the Gospel of John (Cambridge: Cambridge Uni- 
versity, 1970). 

"Dodd, Interpretation, 111. 

"Barrett, The Gospel According to John, 462. 


expand Barrett's insight by showing how all of these prophetic func- 
tions are ascribed to the Spirit Paraclete in the fourth gospel." These 
include the functions of being a divine messenger and spokesman, one 
who glorifies God (Jesus), a teacher and interpreter of events, a 
witness, one who predicts the future, and one whose message is 
rejected in the present. "Furthermore, his [the Holy Spirit's] perma- 
nent presence within the Christian community is the fulfillment of the 
hope that all the Lord's people should be prophets (cf. Num 11:29)."^^ 
Although in this age believers are not prophets in the technical sense 
of the term, surely this was Jesus' encouraging word to the disciples 
on the night he was betrayed. They would be equipped from above by 
the long-awaited, abiding presence of the Prophetic Spirit to proclaim 
as "prophets" the good news of their Savior. 

John 20:22 

Only this last occurrence of the Holy Spirit in the fourth gospel 
remains to be dealt with in this study. Again, the context appears to 
be one of prophetic commissioning: 

Jesus therefore said to them again, "Peace be with you; as the Father 
has sent Me, I also send you." And when He had said this. He breathed 
on them, and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit" [John 20:21-22]. 

Jesus' sending of his disciples as he was sent by the Father and 
his emphasis on receiving the Holy Spirit suggest a continuation of 
his Spirit-anointed "prophetic" ministry: 

The tandem relationship between Jesus and the spirit-paraclete is used 
by John to stress the continuity of function rather than to suggest that 
Jesus is subordinate. Greater claims are made for Jesus than the 
paraclete, and it is he as the prophe*^ par excellence who provides the 
model for the prophetic spirit. ... he figure of Moses may also lie 
behind John's description of Jesus bequeathing his spirit to his disciples 
(John 20:22; cf. LXX Gen 2:7) Besides endowing the seventy elders 
with his self-same spirit of prophecy (Num ll:24f), at the end of his 
farewell discourse he hands on his spirit to his successor, Joshua.^' 

At various points in the fourth gospel, John has subtly demon- 
strated that, as the second Moses (Deut 18:15), Jesus is far greater 
than Moses. For example, while the Torah was given through Moses, 

"Boring, "The Influence of Christian Prophecy," 113-20 and Isaacs, "The 
Prophetic Spirit in the Fourth Gospel," 393-99. 

^^Isaacs, "The Prophetic Spirit in the Fourth Gospel," 399. 
"Ibid., 402-3. 


Jesus himself is the New Torah, because he has seen the Father and 
explains him (John 1:17-18). While manna was given through Moses, 
Jesus himself is the true manna from heaven (John 6:32-35). "It is 
because Jesus supersedes Moses that ascriptions such as 'life,' 'light,' 
'bread,' and 'water,' which were previously applied to the Mosaic 
Torah, are transferred to him."''° 

John brings all of this Mosaic imagery to a climax in 20:22. The 
second and greater prophet Moses — the Eschatological Prophet — is 
now bequeathing not just the temporary Spirit of prophecy as Moses 
did, but the abiding, eschatological gift of the Holy Spirit. He will 
enable all of God's people to proclaim Uke prophets of old the good 
news of the New Moses (cf. Joel 2:28-32; Acts 2:1-21). John's in- 
clusion of this bestowal of the Spirit does not appear to be his official 
account of Pentecost, but rather it is simply his way of giving finality 
to the prophetic commissioning he has been picturing since John 
7:37-39. In John's typical style, it is personal, intimate, and filled with 
OT allusions. 


Dodd made a lasting contribution to NT studies with his book. 
According to the Scriptures, '^^ in which he isolated the most important 
OT testimonia behind numerous NT passages. Dodd's error in viewing 
the Holy Spirit's ministry to the Church in the fourth gospel may lie 
in the fact that he did not fully integrate his brilliant work about the 
OT testimonia into his study of John. This is crucial because it seems 
John is always writing at two levels. Some of his first readers appear 
to have been Hellenized Gentiles who were uninformed of the rich 
OT foundation underlying the life and ministry of Jesus and the 
Church. John's gospel is perfectly intelligible to them without this 
background. The second group of readers appear to have been Jews 
and Hellenistic Gentiles who did know the OT well and readily 
picked up on the twenty-odd OT quotations and the hundred-plus 
OT allusions in his gospel. Obviously the fourth gospel is immensely 
enriched with the addition of this dimension. 

The person and work of the Holy Spirit can be seen in the same 
two-fold manner in John. The Holy Spirit can be readily distinguished 
from the impersonal forces and unholy spirits with which Gentiles 
would be familiar from the standard Greco-Roman mystery religions. 
John fosters this distinction by his emphasis on the personhood of the 
Spirit and the personal relationship the Christian has with him. 
However, John does not reduce TiveC^a to reality or absolute being. 

'"Ibid., 403. 

"'C. H. Dodd, According to the Scriptures (London: Nisbet & Co., 1952). 


His rich anchoring in OT tesdmonia about the Spirit makes such an 
identification impossible. Therefore, John's view of the Holy Spirit 
can be summarized as a more personal and intimate view of the same 
prophesied Messianic anointing or empowering found in Luke-Acts 
and the rest of the NT."*' Such an anointing both inaugurates a new 
Messianic age and empowers those who believe in Jesus to make the 
"prophetic" proclamation to the nations that he who has been lifted 
up wants to draw all men to himself (John 12:32). 

""See Russell, "The Anointing with the Holy Spirit in Luke-Acts," 47-63 for a 
development of the theme of Messianic anointing in Luke's writings. 

Grace Theological Journal 8.2(1 987) 24 1 - 5 1 





Carl B. Hoch, Jr. 

Three major approaches to the question of the role of women in 
the church can be discerned in contemporary Western Christianity: 
the non-evangeUcal egalitarian, the evangelical egalitarian, and the 
hierarchical. The first approach does not accept the Bible as the 
authoritative guide to faith and practice, viewing Scripture as andro- 
centric and thus to be handled with hermeneutical suspicion. The 
second position accepts the Bible as the infallible standard of faith 
and ethics, but holds that the texts used by traditionalists to keep 
women in a limited role of ministry have been misunderstood. Most 
such texts are considered historically-conditioned ad hoc passages 
that are not universally applicable to current ecclesiology. The third 
position affirms that Scripture teaches a hierarchy for the home and 
the church. Role differentiation, however, is not seen to imply that 
there is an ontological difference between male and female; the two 
are essentially equal while maintaining different roles in afunctional 


THE role of women in the church is rapidly becoming one of the 
most controversial issues in western Christianity. Numerous 
books and articles have appeared on the subject in the last five years, 
and there is scarcely a major Christian publisher that has not pub- 
lished at least one work on the issue. A recent volume lists approxi- 
mately 430 titles.' This same book cites three bibliographies on the 

'G. Bilezikian, Beyond Sex /?o/f5 (Grand Rapids; Baker, 1985). 
"C. E. Cerling, Jr., "An Annotated Bibliography of the New Testament Teaching 
about Women," JETS 16 (1972) 47-53; D. M. Scholer, Introductory Reading List for 


There are three major approaches to the role of women reflected 
in the hterature: non-evangeUcal egalitarian, evangelical egalitarian, 
and hierarchical. This article examines each of these views and sug- 
gests areas where further research may resolve the diff"erences or at 
least bring a sharper focus on the exact nature of the role of women 
in the church according to each position. 


The most concise recent presentation of the non-evangelical 
egalitarian approach is that edited by Collins.^ This viewpoint rejects 
the Bible as an absolute, timeless revelation. The biblical texts are 
sexist and thoroughly androcentric,^ requiring a "hermeneutics of 
suspicion." The androcentric texts are "theological interpretations, 
argumentations, projections, and selections rooted in a patriarchal 
culture."'' Therefore, the texts must be read critically and evaluated 
historically in terms of their own time. However, the theological 
assessment may take one of five forms according to Osiek. 

The rejectionist asserts that the Bible is of no value for construct- 
ing a theology of women. The entire Judeo-Christian tradition is 
hopelessly sinful, corrupt, and unredeemable.^ 

The loyalist maintains that the Bible may be interpreted as really 
teaching freedom and equality of all persons. Biblical texts teaching 
female submission are not the norm and must be interpreted in line 
with the norms of freedom and equality. 

The revisionist calls for a total reassessment of the role of women 
in Judaism and in early Christianity. This approach is a midpoint 
between the first and second viewpoints. 

The sublimationist employs a search for and glorification of the 
eternal feminine in biblical symbohsm. This symbohsm establishes the 
distinctive feminine and masculine modes of being. 

The liberationist interprets biblical eschatology in terms of libera- 
tion. The task of the church should be the progressive hberation of 
women from patriarchal domination. The core of the biblical message 

the Study of the Role and Status of Women in the New Testament (David Scholer, 
1981) 1-4; K. Sorrie, "Contemporary Feminist Theology: A Selective Bibliography," 
TSF Bulletin 7 {\9M) 13-15. 

A. Y. Collins, ed.. Feminist Perspectives on Biblical Scholarship (Missoula, Mont.: 
Scholars, 1985). 

'Ibid., 3. 

'Ibid., 4-5. 

'Ibid., 56. 

C. Osiek, "The Feminist and the Bible: Hermeneutical Alternatives," in Collins, 
Feminist Perspectives, 97-105. 

'ibid., 98. 

hoch: the role of women in the church 243 

is to be found in the prophetic tradition which calls for the creation 
of a just society free from any kind of oppression.*^ 

While the non-evangelical egalitarian approach continues to re- 
gard the Bible as a religious document, it often does not uphold the 
Bible as the only infallible rule of faith and practice. It employs the 
historical-critical method for adjudicating which texts are acceptable 
for developing a theology of women and which texts are unaccept- 
able. In the final analysis, contemporary feminism serves as a judge of 
the Bible; the Bible cannot serve as the judge of contemporary 


This second approach aflfirms the Bible as the infallible rule of 
faith and practice. Evangelical egalitarians do not have a hostile or 
even negative view of the Bible. They do, however, believe that hier- 
archicalists have misused the texts that seem to support a hierarchy 
that limits the kinds of ministry women may perform in the church. 
The Bible does not, according to this approach, teach a man/ woman 
hierarchy nor a submission of women/ wives to men/ husbands. The 
true biblical picture, especially from the perspective of the NT, is 
complete equality between male and female and mutual submission of 
male and female in Christ. There is a strong emphasis on giving full 
weight to the cultural conditioning of parts of Scripture and on 
paying close attention to the historically conditioned ad hoc passages. 

One of the factors that has certainly caused the first and second 
approaches to appear so attractive has been the extension of the 
hierarchical view to politics, economics, business, suffrage, dress, the 
right to author books, the chairing of meetings, and countless other 
areas of everyday life. If the hierarchicalist approach demands lower 
wages for women, denies the right of women to wear slacks and 
pants-suits, and denounces women who run for political ojffice, then 
feminists have a legitimate right to reject the hierarchicalist approach 
as demeaning to women and as a reduction of a woman's status to 
something less than being made in God's image. 

Actually, there is wide agreement between evangelical egalitarians 
and hierarchicalists in regard to a woman's place in society, home, 
and church. Both affirm women as made in the image of God. Neither 
teaches an ontological hierarchy of male and female. Both agree that 
a woman's role in the home and in the church is to a large degree 
culturally defined. Both acknowledge the significant contributions 
women have made in biblical history and in the modern world. Both 
take note of the place of women in the life of Christ as recorded in 

*Ibid., 103. 


the Gospels and of the high esteem Jesus Christ placed on women. 
Both insist that there are many clear passages in the NT where 
women have a significant part in church life: women prayed (Acts 
1:14), prophesied (Acts 2:17-18; 21:8-9), engaged in benevolent work 
(Acts 9:36-43), hosted meetings of the church (Acts 12:12; 16:40; 
1 Cor 1:11; 16:19; Col 4:15), were fellow-workers with the apostle 
Paul (Rom 16:3-5; Phil 4:2-4), worked hard in the Lord (Rom 16:2, 
12), taught younger women (Titus 2:3-5), washed the feet of saints 
(1 Tim 5:9-10), and at least in one case corrected a male's deficient 
theology privately (Acts 18:26). 

Both emphasize the giving of spiritual gifts to every member of 
the body of Christ (1 Cor 12:7). No one denies that women sang 
psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs (Eph 5:19) or evangelized (John 
4:39-42). Therefore, most agree that 1 Cor 14:34-35 and 1 Tim 2:11- 
12 cannot command the absolute silence of women in the church. 

The conflict between egalitarians and hierarchicalists revolves 
around six or seven controversial passages in the NT and the extent 
of male/ female equality. Feminists argue that there is to be a com- 
plete equality of men and women in all spheres of life. There are no 
leaders or heads. There are neither offices from which women are 
excluded nor limitations of ministry to be placed upon women. All 
ministries in the church are open to women and mutual submission is 
to characterize male/ female relationships in the home and in the 
church. Evangelical egalitarians have maintained this position based 
on their interpretation of texts that have been bastions for hier- 
archicalists who maintain an ontological equality but a functional 
hierarchy between men and women and an exclusion of women from 
the oflfice of teaching and/ or ruling elder. 

The first debated text is Rom 16:1. Egalitarians assert that Phoebe 
was a deaconess in the church at Cenchreae. The service she per- 
formed was official and reflects the male/ female equality in the 
apostolic church. 

The second debated text is Rom 16:7. Egalitarians argue that 
Touviav is a feminine form and refers to a woman named Junia. 
She is not only called a fellow-prisoner {o\)vaix[iCLX6)xoc,) with Paul, 
but more significantly, she is designated as outstanding among the 
apostles. It is said that there can be no doubt from this text that there 
were woman apostles in the early church. 

The third controversial passage is 1 Cor 11:2-16. Since some 
kind of head-covering is mentioned, egalitarians are quick to point 
out the need to take seriously the cultural dimensions of various NT 
directives. But more attention is directed toward the meaning of 
K8(pa)tf| in V 3. Egalitarians insist that this word means "source" or 
"origin," and that attempts to establish a hierarchy on the basis of 
this verse are misguided. 

hoch: the role of women in the church 245 

The fourth debated passage is 1 Cor 14:34-35. All sides admit 
the difficulty in understanding just what the problem was at Corinth 
and what the Pauline response to the problem was. The exegetical 
difficulties are: (1) Does the phrase "as in all the churches of the 
saints" go with v 33 or with v 34? (2) Does ai yuvaiKsg mean "your 
women" or "your wives"? (3) Is the prohibition against speaking a 
prohibition against speaking in tongues, speaking across a divided 
aisle, speaking or praying as a prophetess (if this option is adopted, 
11:5 is usually interpreted as allowing praying or prophesying only 
for the sake of argument, but not in fact allowing either practice), 
brash speaking, teaching, or all speaking? (4) Where is the passage "in 
the law"? (5) Why is it shameful for a woman to speak in the church? 
The solutions here are not uniform. Some argue for a textual inter- 
polation; others for an admonition against judging prophets publicly; 
others for a Gnostic background of female chauvinism; and others for 
a quotation by Paul of a legalistic slogan being used by Jewish 
propagandists to promote male chauvinism in the Corinthian as- 
sembly. Although the verses are obscure, they are, according to the 
egalitarians, to be recognized as an ad hoc passage. The exegete must 
use considerable care before raising a text above time-bound signifi- 
cance to timeless significance. 

The fifth controversial text is Gal 3:28. All egalitarians regard 
this verse as the "Magna Carta" of feminism. Along with Acts 2:17-18 
it can be considered as an inaugural text. Gal 3:28 is considered to be 
the normative text. All other texts must be interpreted so as to cohere 
with this text. Egalitarian exegetes stoutly maintain that this verse 
teaches the complete equality of men and women in the church. 
According to Bilezikian, "sex distinctions are irrelevant in the church. 
Therefore, the practice of sex discrimination in the church is sinful." '° 

The sixth debated passage is 1 Tim 2:11-15. There are few pas- 
sages in the NT that have produced as much controversy. All 
approaches regard it as a crux interpretum. It is a pillar passage for 
hierarchicalists. It is a problem passage for egalitarians. It has been 
dubbed non-Pauline by those rejecting the Pauline authorship of the 
Pastorals. Some feel that it represents "Paul in process" where he 
has not yet worked out consistently the implications of his basic 
theology as expressed in Gal 3:28. Gordon Fee has recently argued 
that this is an ad hoc passage addressing a particular problem in the 
church at Ephesus." The passage, then, is of particular, not universal 

'"Bilezikian, Sex Roles, 128. 

"G. Fee, "Reflections on Church Order in the Pastoral Epistles, With Further 
Reflection on the Hermeneutics of Ad Hoc Documents," J^re 28 (1985) 141-51. 

'^G. Fee, 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus (Good News Commentary; San Francisco: 
Harper and Row, 1984) 141-51. 


The seventh debated text is 1 Tim 3:11. The Greek text simply 
reads yuvaiKat; uxjamcoc, after the three verses (vv 8-10) that outline 
the qualifications for deacons. The exegetical question is whether 
deaconesses or the wives of deacons are in view. While some hier- 
archicalists concede that deaconesses may be the subject, the usual 
approach is to interpret the yuvaiKac; as the wives of deacons. Neither 
this passage nor Rom 16:1 describes women as holding the office of 
deaconess according to many hierarchicalists. Phoebe is a "servant" 
and the yuvaiKag assist their husbands in their roles as deacons. 
Egalitarians, on the other hand, use this text to support their exegesis 
of Rom 16:1, or they use Rom 16:1 as support for a deaconess as the 
subject of 1 Tim 3:11. 

According to evangelical egalitarians, then, none of these seven 
controversial texts undermines or subverts a doctrine of complete 
equality of men and women in the church: Gal 3:28 is the basic, 
inaugural text; 1 Corinthians 1 1 does not teach a hierarchy; Rom 
16:1, 7 and 1 Tim 3:11 show that women held high offices in the 
primitive church (deaconess and apostle); and 1 Cor 14:34-35 and 
1 Tim 2:11-15 are ad hoc passages addressing particular problems in 
the churches of Corinth and Ephesus, and are not universal, time- 
less texts. 


Hierarchicalists reaffirm the position of traditional Judaism and 
Christianity that God has determined a functional hierarchy in the 
home and in the church. There is a role differentiation between male 
and female. Males are to lead and females are to follow in church 
government. Only men are eligible for the office of teaching and 
ruling elder. In the home, although husbands are to love their wives, 
wives are to submit themselves to their husbands (Eph 5:22, 24; Col 
3:18). Oppressive husbands and autocratic males in leadership roles 
are reprehensible, but this does not invalidate the biblical directives. 

Hierarchicalists differ over whether Rom 16:1 and 1 Tim 3:11 are 
describing deaconesses. Although the majority of them support the 
servant/ wives of deacons interpretation, such an interpretation is not 
necessary to their approach. Hierarchicalists do not argue that women 
have no ministry in the church. The office of deaconess may have 
been a legitimate ministry in NT times. There is no pronoun after 
yuvaiKac;, and Paul does not have a separate section on the wives of 
overseers after his discussion of the overseers themselves in vv 1-7. 
These facts argue against a separate section on wives of deacons. 
When Paul uses (baaCxcix;, it usually introduces a separate group (cf. 
1 Tim 2:9; 3:8, 11; Titus 2:3, 6). The NT apparently did not have a 

hoch: the role of women in the church 247 

separate word for "deaconess."'^ Therefore, the office of deaconess 
is exegetically possible. The hierarchical approach is not adversely 
affected if women serve as deaconesses in the church. 

However, hierarchicalists refuse to acknowledge that Touviav is 
a feminine name. The possibility from a purely lexical point of view 
that this is a woman's name is probably ruled out by the context.''' 
The form is probably a short form of the common Junianus.'^ 

Even if Touviav is a woman's name and she is outstanding, she 
may not actually have been an apostle. The Greek preposition sv is 
fluid enough to allow a person to be among a group without being an 
integral part of that group. 

A pillar in the egalitarian position is the meaning of K8(pa?Lf| in 
1 Cor 11:3-5 as "source" or "origin." The Mickelsens assert that no 
superior rank or authority connotations can be read into K8(pa>Lf|.'^ 
Grudem, however, states that KscpaXf] never means "source" or 
"origin" in Greek literature.'^ Two possible examples of this meaning 
(Herodotus 4.91 and the Orphic Fragments 21a), upon closer exami- 
nation, yield the meanings "top" and "beginning of a series."'^ 
Grudem's conclusion is: "If we are interested in biblical interpretation 
that is based on the facts of historical and linguistic research, then it 
would seem wise to give up once for all the claim that kephale can 
mean 'source.'"''^ Hierarchicalists, therefore, affirm their belief that 
the NT teaches an authority structure where the man does have a 
priority in leadership in the church and in the home over the woman. 

Hierarchicalists are as perplexed over Paul's intention in 1 Cor 
14:34-35 as the egalitarians are. The usual approach is to compare 
the vocabulary parallels with 1 Timothy 2 and to conclude that au- 
thoritative speaking, teaching, and ruling are forbidden.'" An alter- 
native view is that women are forbidden to participate in the (public) 
examination of prophets."^' Since the passage is obscure, nothing 

'^J. N. D. Kelly, The Pastoral Epistles (New York: Harper and Row, 1953; reprint; 
Grand Rapids: Baker, 1981) 83 84. 

'■'BAGD, s.v. "'Ioovia(;," II. Cf. Hans Lietzmann, Die Briefe des Apostels Paulas 
(Handbuch zum Neuen Testament; Tubingen: Mohr, 1910) n.p. 

"BAGD, s.v. '"louviaq," II. 

'^Berkeley and Alvera Mickelsen, "What Does Kephale Mean in the New Testa- 
ment?" in Women, Authority and the Bible, ed. Alvera Mickelsen (Downers Grove, 
111.: InterVarsity, 1986)97-110. 

"W. Grudem, "Appendix One: Does Kephale ('Head') Mean 'Source' or 'Author- 
ity Over' in Greek Literature? A Survey of 2,336 Examples," in G. W. Knight III, The 
Role Relationship of Men and Women (Chicago: Moody, 1985) 68. 

"ibid., 53. 

"Ibid., 70. 

'"Ibid., 34. 

^'j. B. Hurley, Man and Woman in Biblical Perspective (Grand Rapids: Zonder- 
van, 1981) 193. 


dogmatic can be based on it. But it is looked upon as cohering with 
1 Corinthians 1 1 and 1 Timothy 2 in terms of female subordination in 
the church. 

Hierarchicalists firmly reject the thesis that Gal 3:28 teaches 
complete functional equality between Jews and Gentiles, slaves and 
masters, or male and female. They believe that Paul is affirming 
soteriological equality. The whole argument of Galatians is whether 
works of the law such as circumcision are necessary in order for 
Gentiles to be saved. The issue in Galatians is soteriological. The 
argument is over entrance into the church, not ministry within it. It is 
no more legitimate to use Gal 3:28 to teach absolute equality of all 
the race in Christ than it is to use Col 1:20 to teach universalism. 
Authority structures and functional differences are simply not in view 
in Gal 3:28. 

The pillar passage for the hierarchical view is 1 Tim 2: 11-15 just 
as Gal 3:28 and 1 Cor 11:3-5 are pillar passages for egalitarians. 
1 Tim 2:11-15 is not an interpolation. It occurs within a genuine 
epistle of Paul. It is absolute, universal, and timeless in its prescrip- 
tive character as the Word of God. Although there may be a neces- 
sary cultural adjustment over precisely how a woman might exercise 
authority over a man, a woman is to be in submission to a man in the 
church. The woman is forbidden to indoctrinate the church in matters 
of faith and practice. This passage must be interpreted in light of 
other NT texts where verbal activity of women in the church is 
described and approved. Therefore, the word fiauxia cannot mean 
total silence. It either means silence in respect to authoritative teach- 
ing or an attitude of reverence and respect (see 2 Thess 3:12; and cf. 
f[o()xioq in 1 Tim 2:2 and 1 Pet 3:4). The term auBsvxso) simply 
means "exercise authority over."'" It is not assuming rebellious women 
who are seeking to dominate. Paul grounds his argument in the first 
three chapters of Genesis, not in Jewish or Graeco-Roman cultural 
practices." The parallels between this passage and 1 Pet 3:1-7 indi- 
cate that this passage cannot be ad hoc. Therefore, 1 Tim 2:11-15 
places a limitation upon women: they are not eligible for the office of 
teaching and /or ruling elder. Their eligibility would violate the hier- 
archy and transgress the prohibitions against authoritative teaching. 


While there are points of agreement among the three approaches 
to the role of women in the church, there are also sharp disagree- 
ments. At stake is the ministry of women in the church. Every effort, 

--G. W. Knight III, ''AUTHENTEO in Reference to Women in I Timothy 2:12," 
A'r5'30(i984) 143-57. 

"Hurley, Man and Woman, 204-23. 

hoch: the role of women in the church 249 

therefore, should be expended by those within the church to grapple 
with the issues in an attempt to reach a position that neither vitiates 
the authority of Scripture nor robs women of a vital, biblical place in 
the body of Christ. In this effort, the following questions need to be 

1. If Grudem is correct in his study of KscpaXf), what revisions will 
need to be made in the egalitarian approach? If he is wrong, will 
the hierarchicalist position need radical reassessment? 

2. Is 'louviav a masculine or feminine name? If it can be proven 
that she held the position of apostle in the early church, what are 
the implications of this fact for current church order? Are there 
apostles today? 

3. What does it mean "to prophesy"? Is this a continuing ministry 
of women or should it be classified with temporary gifts and thus 
eliminate that ministry for women in the modern church? 

4. Do women lose a significant part of ministry in the modern 
church where they no longer serve as hostesses for the gathering 
of the saints? 

5. If a woman can legitimately serve as a deaconess, just what 
ministry can she have or not have? Did NT deacons only "serve 

6. Can the hierarchy be separated from the hair-covering in 1 Cor- 
inthians 11? In other words, what are the hermeneutics of NT 
directives given in a cultural form? Are hierarchicalists consistent 
in insisting on one directive as absolute and the other directive as 

7. To what extent is there a cultural limitation on Scripture? Her- 
meneutically, what guidelines are there to distinguish the pre- 
scriptive Word of God from the descriptive Word of God? 

8. If 1 Tim 2:11-15 is an ad hoc passage, what are the limits to 
declaring most of the NT ad hod Is there any authoritative "rule 
of faith and practice"? 

9. What answers does one give to questions concerning the applica- 
tion of 1 Tim 2:11-15 in the modern church if the hierarchical 
approach is adopted? Is a new "Evangelical Talmud" necessary to 
give "Halakot" concerning where and when a woman can or 
cannot "teach"? 

10. What spiritual gifts are the unique province of men? 

11. What contributions can a woman make to theology, guidance, 
supervision, and organization in the church? 



Non-evangelical Egalitarian 

Collins, Adela Yarbro (ed.)- Feminist Perspectives on Biblical 
Scholarship. Missoula, Mont.: Scholars, 1985. 

Daly, Mary. The Church and the Second Sex. Boston: Beacon, 1985. 

Douglass, Jane. Women, Freedom and Calvin. Philadelphia: West- 
minster, 1985. 

Fiorenza, Elisabeth Schussler. In Memory of Her. New York: Cross- 
road, 1984. 

Russell, Letty M. (ed.) Feminist Interpretation of the Bible. Phila- 
delphia: Westminster, 1985. 

Stendahl, Brita. The Force of Tradition. Philadelphia: Fortress, 1985. 

Stendahl, Krister. The Bible and the Role of Women. Philadelphia: 
Fortress, 1986. 

Terrien, Samuel. Till the Heart Sings. Philadelphia: Fortress, 1985. 

Evangelical Egalitarian 

Bilezikian, Gilbert. Beyond Sex Roles. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1985. 
Evans, Mary J. Woman in the Bible. Downers Grove, Illinois: 

Inter Varsity, 1984. 
Gundry, Patricia. Heirs Together. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1980. 

Woman Be Freel Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1977. 

Howe, E. Margaret. Women and Church Leadership. Grand Rapids: 

Zondervan, 1982. 
Jewett, Paul K. Man As Male and Female. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 


The Ordination of Women. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1980. 

Mollenkott, Virginia. Women, Men and the Bible. Nashville: Abing- 
don, 1977. 
Pape, Dorothy R. In Search of God's Ideal Woman. Downers Grove, 

111.: InterVarsity, 1976. 
Scanzoni, Letha and Hardesty, Nancy. All We're Meant to Be. Rev. 

ed.; Nashville: Abingdon, 1986. 
Spencer, Aida Besancon. Beyond the Curse. Nashville: Thomas 

Nelson, 1985. 


Allen, Ronald and Allen, Beverly. Liberated Traditionalism. Port- 
land, Oregon: Multnomah, 1985. 

Clark, Stephen. Man and Woman in Christ. Ann Arbor, Michigan: 
Servant, 1980. 

hoch: the role of women in the church 251 

Colwell, Jerry D. "A Survey of Recent Interpretations of Women in 
the Church," Unpublished Thesis, Grand Rapids Baptist Semi- 
nary, 1984. 

Foh, Susan T. Women and the Word of God. Phillipsburg, N.J.: 
Presbyterian and Reformed, 1980. 

Hurley, James B. Man and Woman in Biblical Perspective. Grand 
Rapids: Zondervan, 1981. 

Knight, George W. III. The Role Relationship of Men and Women. 
Chicago: Moody, 1985. 

Nicholas, David R. What 's a Woman to do . . . in the Church? 
Scottsdale, Ariz.: Good Life Productions, Inc., 1979. 

Ryrie, Charles Caldwell. The Role of Women in the Church. Chicago: 
Moody, 1970. 

Grace TheologicalJournal S.2 (19S7) 253-90 




James D. Price 

A genealogical tree diagram of the textual history of Philippians 
may be constructed on the basis of a computer program used to 
analyze the variant readings. The resultant diagram suggests the 
development of four ancient text-types for Philippians and an early 
but gradual degradation of the text. Comparing the probabilities of 
the readings — based on the analysis of Philippians generated by the 
program — with the choices of the editors of UBSGNT^ reveals that 
seven of the readings in UBSGNT^ may not be correct. Although the 
results are tentative and more research on genealogical theory is 
needed, the performance of the program seems to justify further work 
in the field of computer-aided textual criticism. 


AN experimental computer program was recently developed that 
attempts to discover genealogical relationships among manu- 
scripts, to construct a theoretical tree diagram of an approximate 
genealogical history of the text, and to identify the most likely read- 
ings of the original text based upon this reconstruction.' The program 
attempts to provide textual scholars with an objective method for 
evaluating external genealogical probabilities. The method requires 
less subjectivity on the part of the scholar and may eventually provide 
greater confidence in the final results. The program has been used on 
a select set of variants from Philippians; this article is a report of the 

The results reported are tentative; no claim is made that they 
represent final conclusions. The purpose of this article is to demon- 
strate the potential of computer aids for textual criticism and to 

'The program is described in an article by this writer, "A Computer Aid for 
Textual Criticism," GT/ 8 (1987) 1 15-30. 


suggest possible ways to interpret the results. The genealogical theory 
upon which the program is based is still under development. Use 
of the program will bring about refinements in the theory and its 


Ideally the best body of textual data would be a large number of 
manuscript witnesses distributed throughout the history of the text, a 
full list of significant alternate readings, together with a list of the 
manuscripts supporting these readings — that is, a complete textual 
apparatus. However, for purposes of testing the program, a complete 
apparatus was not deemed necessary. A choice then had to be made 
between the apparatus in the Nestle-Aland twenty-sixth edition and 
that in the UBSGNT-^. The Nestle- Aland apparatus lists a greater 
number of variation units (about seventy for Philippians), but the 
number of manuscript witnesses is Hmited and incomplete. The UBS 
apparatus lists a limited number of significant variation units (sixteen 
for Philippians), but a larger number of manuscript witnesses 
(seventy-three for Philippians) with a complete list of manuscripts 
supporting each reading. 

Experiment reveals that, with this kind of trade-off, the greater 
number of manuscript witnesses is more important for tracing genea- 
logical descent than the number of variation units, especially when 
the variation units are significant.^ Therefore, the UBS apparatus was 
selected for use, with all its limitations. No additional textual research 
was conducted to supplement the data. Initially, the textual apparatus 
of UBSGNT^ was used to provide the data for this study; but the 
final results were collated with and corrected by UBSGNT^ so that 
they are consistent with that text. 

Table 1 lists the alternate readings of Philippians treated in 
UBSGNT^. Throughout this article, readings are referred to by a 
decimal number such as 5.3. The number to the left of the decimal 

^Theoretically it is not the number of variation units that is significant, but the 
number of alternate readings (56 for the UBSGNT text of Philippians). The number of 
alternate readings limits the maximum number of possible nodes in the genealogical 
tree. The number of manuscript witnesses in the textual apparatus limits the maximum 
number of possible branches in the tree. Ideally, the two numbers should be balanced. 
If there is a large number of alternate readings, the complexity of the tree is limited by 
the number of manuscripts. If there is a large number of manuscripts, the complexity is 
limited by the number of alternate readings. Initial experiments with Romans have 
verified these observations. The UBSGNT apparatus for Romans has 91 variation units 
(327 alternate readings), and 64 manuscripts. Yet the complexity of the genealogical 
tree was approximately the same as the one for Philippians, except that each node had 
more variants in it. It is expected that an expanded apparatus will add complexity to 
the tree, but not significantly alter its basic structure. 

price: textual commentary on philippians 255 

refers to the variation unit, and the number to the right refers to the 
particular akernative in that unit. So the designation 5.3 refers to 
variation unit 5, akernate reading 3 (loCxo ouv as Hsted in Table 1). 
The computer program works with these numerical indexes rather 
than with the linguistic data itself. 

Alternate readings listed in UBSGNT^ that are supported only 
by seriously deficient witnesses are not included in Table 1; these 
readings contribute nothing of value to the reconstruction of genea- 
logical history because they are incapable of exhibiting grouping 
patterns. The data of Table 1 differ from UBSGNT^ only at variation 
unit 13. UBSGNT^ rightly rejects reading 13.1 as original and omits 
the reading altogether in its list; therefore 13.2 on Table 1 corre- 
sponds withal 3.1 in UBSGNT^, and so forth. 

manuscript witnesses 

Table 2 lists the manuscript witnesses used in the study. The first 
column lists the manuscript designation as used in UBSGNT^. The 
set of sixteen columns lists the alternate readings contained in each 
manuscript. Column 1 is for variation unit 1; column 16 is for 
variation unit 16. The number in each column specifies the alternate 
reading number for the associated variation unit. Thus manuscript K * 
has alternate readings 1.1, 2.3, 3.2, etc. A zero designates a missing 
reading.^ The last column lists the approximate date of the manu- 
scripts. Seriously deficient witnesses were not included in the data. 

Certain assumptions were made in assembling the manuscript 
data. In regard to corrected manuscripts, it was assumed that correc- 
tions were made from an exemplar other than the parent exemplar of 
the original hand and that the corrector exemplar agreed with the 
original hand except where corrections were made. Thus, for example, 
D* and D'^ were treated as two separate manuscripts; the readings of 
B^ were assumed to agree with B* unless otherwise noted in 

The quotations of a church father were assumed to have been 
taken from a single manuscript. Where multiple readings by a church 
father were recorded in the same place of variation, it was assumed 
that more than one manuscript was involved. In this case, the set of 
readings that best matched a known grouping pattern was assumed to 

^A reading could be missing due to a hiatus in the manuscript or to the failure of 
UBSGNT to cite it. Fascicles of manuscripts were not checked in these cases. 

"it is recognized that this assumption may be inaccurate in some cases. However, 
the UBSGNT apparatus makes no distinction between possible corrector scribes or 
corrector exemplars for a given siglum. Research beyond the scope of the present 
project is required to resolve this uncertainty. The results suggest that the uncertainty is 
minimal for this present set of data. 




Alternate Readings of Philippians 






Alternate Reading 



Kai ETiaivov OeoO 


Kal ETiaivov xpvtJToO 

Kai eTiavvov |ioi 

GeoO Kai ercaivov £|ioi 

Ktti erraivov auxoij 


Jioyov \akzlv 

>l6yov Kupiou lakzlv 

Xoyov toO OeoO Xakzlv 

Xojov ^a^siv ToC GeoO 










toCto ydp 

ToCxo o6v 

Kai ToCxo 






viiac, iSeiv 

Ttpo^ unac; (after gap) 























£>.aPov r\ fi5ri T£T£>.£ico|iai 


E^a[3ov f\ fi5ri 5E5iKaico^ai f\ fi5r| TET£?^Ei(0|iai 


E)iaPov f\ f\?ir\ T£tE>L£lco|iai f| fiSrj 5£5iKaico|iai 








xm am(b otoixeiv 


TO auTO (ppovEiv 


TO auTO (ppovEiv, xm auxro axoixEW 


TO auTO (ppovEiv, xm auxcp Kavovi axoixetv 


Tffl auTffl oToix^iv Kavovi, TO auxo CppOVElV 










price: textual commentary on philippians 


TABLE 1 (cont.) 





Number Alternate Reading 



xdjv ?toi7rmv auvepycov nou 


T(ov ouvepycbv |iou Kai tcov Xoinuiv 



eiq xr\v ^cpeiotv noi 


eii; Tr|v xpeicv |iou 


Tr|v xpsiotv |ioi 


TTiv xpsicv HOD 


HOI sic; TTiv xpeiotv nou 


in unum mihi 


in necessitatem meam vel usibus meis 







UHCOV. a^riv 


List of Variants by Manuscript 



Variation Unit 
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 






























































1 1 

I 2 



1 2 

2 2 
2 4 

1 2 
2 1 1 

12 12 

12 5 4 

12 12 


1 2 

2 2 
1 1 

3 2 

4 4 



13 13 2 

12 13 2 



2 1 

2 1 

3 2 

1 5 3 

2 5 2 
1 5 4 
1 1 

1 2 1 

1 2 1 

1 2 

2 4 
1 5 

1 5 

2 4 
2 4 



4 1 

5 3 

2 5 
2 4 
1 5 


3 2 

4 2 
2 2 


2 2 

3 2 

3 2 
3 2 
3 2 
3 2 
2 2 
2 2 
2 2 




TABLE 2 {com.) 


Variation Unit 











70 77 



7^ 75 

















































































































































































































































































































































































































































































price: textual commentary on philippians 259 

belong to one manuscript of the church father, and the remaining 
readings were assigned to another manuscript of the father. 

Each of the various manuscripts of ancient versions was assumed 
to be a faithful translation of a single Greek manuscript. Obvious 
translational blunders were attributed to the versions themselves, as 
well as known linguistic inadequacies such as Latinisms, etc. Some 
sigla of the versions in the UBSGNT (such as the Vulgate) represent 
the composite readings of a group of many genealogically related 
manuscripts; these too were assumed to represent the readings of the 
exemplar from which the translation was rendered. This assumption 
is not a serious flaw in the methodology. If adequate representative 
manuscripts of a given version were available in the textual apparatus, 
the computer program would group these manuscripts together and 
identify their composite readings as those of the parent exemplar, and 
then create an exemplar to represent the composite witness of the 
given group of manuscripts. So nothing is lost except details of the 
textual transmission of the version itself, a matter of secondary 

The composite witness of the Byzantine tradition was repre- 
sented as two manuscripts (Byz-A and Byz-B) in agreement except for 
variation unit 13 where part of the Byzantine tradition (Byz-A) reads 
13.3 and the other part of the Byzantine tradition (Byz-B) reads 13.4. 
As with the discussion of versions above, this assumption is not 
detrimental to the reconstruction of the genealogical history, because 
the computer program regularly lets an exemplar represent the witness 
of all its descendants. If more representatives of the Byzantine tradi- 
tion had been available in the UBSGNT apparatus, they would have 
formed additional branches under either Byz-A or Byz-B as manu- 
scripts 1739 and 1881 did, or at least closely related branches as 
manuscripts 630 and 2495 did. 

The composite witness of the lectionary tradition also is repre- 
sented as one manuscript (Lect), except in those cases where indi- 
vidual lectionary manuscripts were included in the apparatus. The 
above reasoning also applies to this case. 

The date of each manuscript witness was taken from that supplied 
in the front matter of the UBSGNT text. In some cases no date was 
given, so dates were assigned. In the case of correctors, it was assumed 
that the corrector scribe used a manuscript regarded as more authori- 
tative than the manuscript he was correcting; therefore, a date fifty 
years earlier than the date of the corrected manuscript was arbitrarily 
assigned to the corrector manuscript. Therefore, the date represents 
that of the corrector manuscript, not of the scribal activity; the date 
of the manuscript is the important detail, not the date of the scribe. 


The results indicate that this assumption was reasonable. The cor- 
rector manuscripts generally appear on the resultant tree diagram 
earlier than the corresponding corrected manuscripts. The initially 
assigned dates do not determine that result; the genealogical grouping 
of the manuscripts is the primary determination. 


On the basis of the manuscript alignments in the sixteen places 
of variation noted in UBSGNT^, the computer program defined a 
preliminary genealogical tree diagram. This diagram was manually 
reworked and revised to produce an optimum configuration defining 
the genealogical relationships among the seventy-three manuscripts 
listed in the apparatus. Figure 1 is the resultant tree diagram.' Greek 
manuscripts are represented by circles, church fathers by squares, and 
ancient versions by triangles. Each manuscript, father, or version is 
identified by name, designation, or number. Exemplars that were 
created by the computer program have been assigned names that 
identify their role in the reconstructed history (i.e., Alex- A, Alex-B, 
and so on). Solid arrows mark direct genealogical descent; that is, an 
exemplar is connected with its immediate (first-generation) descen- 
dants by means of a solid arrow. A descendant manuscript shares all 
the variants of its ancestors. A dotted arrow marks partial descent or 

In subsequent figures, the tree diagrams define how the text 
degraded. Each manuscript is named and dated. Random alternate 
readings introduced by a given manuscript are listed inside the asso- 
ciated circle, square, or triangle; these are the readings in which the 
manuscript differs from its parent exemplar. Such readings are trans- 
mitted to subsequent descendants. Some alternate readings intro- 
duced by a manuscript have been regarded as corrections; these are 
indicated by dotted arrows with the correcting reading number listed 
alongside the arrow, or by an incomplete arrow originating from a 
dangling reading number if the source of the correction is uncertain. 
A given manuscript contains the alternate readings listed in its own 
circle, square, or triangle, plus all the readings in the circles, squares, 
or triangles of all its ancestors; all readings not so defined for a given 
manuscript are the readings of the original autograph as recon- 
structed by the computer program. A correction that restores what is 
deemed to be an original reading is marked with an asterisk, such as 

'The diagram is more complex than the simpHfied version in my earlier article, "A 
Computer Aid for Textual Criticism," 122. Optimizing the configuration resulted in a 
few changes in the final form. 

price: textual commentary on philippians 261 

Figure 1 defines the genealogical history of the text of Philippians 
as reconstructed by the computer program. The ancestry of each 
extant witness used in the study is traced back through preceding 
generations to the reconstructed original autograph. The next section 
interprets the tree diagram in terms of genealogical history. 

textual history 

The structure of the genealogical tree diagram defines an ap- 
proximate history of the text of PhiUppians (figure 1).^ The following 
material is a historical interpretation of the genealogical tree diagram 
produced by the computer program. It illustrates the potential value 
of the computer-aided genealogical method, but the interpretation is 
limited by the uncertainties inherent in the method itself and the 
limited number of variation units in the available data. These limita- 
tions should be understood in the following discussion without con- 
stant repetition. The use of the indicative mood does not imply 
certainty, but simply reflects the suggestions derived from the com- 
puter program within the above limitations. 

According to the genealogical tree diagram, four ancient text- 
types developed: the Alexandrian, the Antiochan, the Caesarean,^ 
and the Western (figure 2).^ In each text-type there is evidence of very 
early degradation and mixture followed by some degree of correction 
and stabilization. 

The Alexandrian Text- Type 

The Alexandrian text-type (figure 3) is witnessed by manuscripts 
X*, K\ A, B*, B\ C, D*, G*, G^ I, P, p'', 33, 81, 104, 330, 451, 
1241, 1962, 2127, and 2492; by the texts of the church fathers 
Augustine, Clement, Eusebius, Euthalius, Hilary, and Origen (all 
incomplete); and by the Ethiopic versions eth'"° and ethPP, by the 
Coptic versions cop''" and cop^^, and by the Latin version its. 

^Obviously the exact history of the text cannot be reconstructed. The configura- 
tion of the diagram is derived from the data of the 73 manuscripts and the 16 variation 
units used in the study. These data are sufficient to give an approximate reconstruction 
of the history. 

'The name "Caesarean" is used with caution since no Caesarean text-type has been 
previously identified for the Pauline epistles. However, preliminary computer research 
with 1 Timothy, Jude, and Romans confirms a similar text-type involving the Armenian 
version for each book. This suggests the possible identity of the text-type as Caesarean. 

^Figure 2 represents only the first few generations of the textual history. For 
simplification, the later generations have been omitted in order to more clearly illus- 
trate the reconstructed history. Subsequent figures include the complete details for the 
individual text-types. 



price: textual commentary on philippians 263 



price: textual commentary on philippians 265 

The proto-Alexandrian text introduced variants 8.4 and 13.3, 
and seems to have been in Egypt by the end of the first century.^ 
About the first quarter of the second century three new variants had 
been introduced independently (11.2, 7.1, 12.1) starting three main 
branches of the Alexandrian text-type: Alex- A (11.2), Alex-B (7.1), 
and Alex-C( 12.1). 

In the Alex-A branch, about the middle of the second century, 
three sub-branches originated introducing four independent alternate 
readings: Alex-Al (3.2, 5.1), Alex-A2 (15.3) and Alex-A3 (9.2). Sub- 
branch Alex-A 1 has one unique descendant, Alex- AC that accounts 
for manuscripts X*, C, and A."^ Sub-branch Alex-A2 is witnessed by 
Clement (incomplete) and by manuscripts 104, 330, 451, and 2492. 
Sub-branch Alex-A3 is witnessed by manuscripts 1962, 2127, and 
D*. Manuscript D* seems to have been a careless recension made to 
accompany the independent Old Latin version, if^, made from a 
Greek text of Antiochan descent (discussed later). A mixture of Alex- 
A2, Alex- A3, and Alex-Cl (with two new variants) seems to be the 
primary source of a recension (Alex-ACl) made to accommodate 
both Ethiopic versions, eth'^° and ethPP. A few minor branches in- 
dependently introduce later variants: Alex-A5 (12.5), Alex-A6 (1.2), 
and Alex-A7 (15.2). 

The Alex-B branch has no unique descendants, but a mixture of 
Alex-B and Alex-A5 accounts for manuscripts X'^ and P (plus Alex- 
A8). About the end of the second quarter of the second century a new 
branch (Alex-B 1) originated introducing variant 8.1; this text is wit- 
nessed by manuscripts G"^, G*, and the Old Latin version its. Manu- 
script C^ appears to be a careless recension made to accommodate 
the independent Latin version its made from it. 

The Alex-C branch is witnessed by manuscript I (incomplete), 
and by the texts of Augustine and Hilary (both incomplete). By the 
end of the second quarter of the second century a new branch (Alex- 
Cl) originated, introducing variant 5.1;'^ this text is witnessed by 
manuscript 33 (with some corrections). Papyrus p"*^ appears to be a 
mixture of Alex-C and Alex-B 1, but its numerous random variants 
suggest that the scribe was careless. 

Dating of the early generations is only approximate, being based on the arbitrary 
rule of making a created exemplar fifty years older than its oldest descendant. Since 
Clement (c. 200) and p'*^ (c. 200) are both identified by the program as third-generation 
descendants, a date of a.d. 100 for the proto-Alexandrian text-type is not unreasonable. 

'"Manuscript C is not complete, having only 7 of the 16 readings, so its exact 
location in the diagram is uncertain; this is true of all seriously incomplete witnesses. 
Manuscript A exhibits mixture with branch Alex-A4. 

"Variant 5.1 was also introduced at Alex-Al at about the same time. There seems 
to have been some mixture of Alex-C with Alex- AC, and of Alex-Cl with Alex-Al. 


A mixture of branches Alex-Bl and Alex-Cl occurred about the 
third quarter of the second century, producing branch Alex-BC. This 
mixed branch is witnessed by the text of Origen (incomplete). About 
the middle of the third century a new branch (Alex-BC 1) originated 
from Alex-BC, introducing variant 6.2; this is witnessed by manu- 
scripts B^ and B*, and by the Coptic Sahidic version (cop^^). 
Manuscript B^ contains the Greek text used for the version cop^^. 
The Greek text behind the Coptic Boharic version (cop''^) is a mix- 
ture of branches Alex-BCl and Alex-Cl. 

The Antiochan Text- type 

The Antiochan text-type (figure 4) is witnessed by manuscripts 
DS K, 88, 181, 326, 614, 629, 630, 1739, 1877, 1881, 1984, 1985, and 
2495; by the composite witness of the two Byzantine traditions (Byz-A 
and Byz-B) and the composite witness of the Lectionaries (Lect); by 
the texts of the church fathers, John of Damascus and Theodoret; 
and by texts behind the Syriac versions syr*^ and syrP, and the Old 
Latin versions if* and it^. 

The proto-Antiochan text near the end of the second century 
appears to have been identical with the original autograph.'^ Some- 
time in the next hundred years three main branches of the Antiochan 
text-type originated: Anti-A (introducing variant 15.2), Anti-B (intro- 
ducing 2.1), and Anti-C (introducing 12.5, plus 4.2 apparently bor- 
rowed from the proto-Caesarean text). 

The Anti-A branch, which developed sometime before the middle 
of the fourth century, has no unique descendants. It exhibits its 
existence through various subsequent mixtures. 

The Anti-B branch has no unique descendants, but manuscript 
D'= is a perfect'^ mixture of Anti-A and Anti-B. This branch also 
exhibits its existence through subsequent mixtures. 

The Anti-C branch, which appeared about the middle of the 
third century, introduced variant 12.5, and it seems to be a mixture of 
proto-Antiochan and proto-Caesarean (4.2). This branch is witnessed 
by two late manuscripts, 326 and 1877, and by the text behind \X^, it^, 
and syrP. 

The date is only approximate because the eariiest extant witnesses to this text- 
type are D*^ (c. 450), if* (c. 450), and Theodoret (c. 450), each several generations 
removed. Proto-Antiochan is assumed to be identical with the original autograph 
because its three main branches contain all the readings of the probable auto- 
graph except for their own unique variants. That is, they mutually agree on the 
readings of the probable autograph by a ratio of at least two to one. 

'^Perfect mixture occurs when a manuscript contains all the variants of two or 
more parent exemplars. In this case, manuscript D= contains the variant 15.2 from 
Anti-A and variant 2.1 from Anti-B; all the other readings agree with the probable 

price: textual commentary on philippians 



Around the beginning of the fourth century Anti-B and Anti-C 
were mixed, producing the ancestral Une (Anti-BC) for the Byzantine 
tradition. By the middle of the fourth century a text developed (Anti- 
ABC) that was a mixture of all three, Anti-A, Anti-B, and Anti-C. 
This text is witnessed by manuscripts 1984 and 1985, and by the text 
of John of Damascus. 

Sometime during the fifth century another mixture took place 
between Anti-C and the Caesarean text, producing branch Anti-C 1 
that introduced the Caesarean variant 9.2 and a correction (13.3) 
from some unknown source (possibly Alex-A7); this text is witnessed 
by manuscript 88. The text of Anti-Cl became the primary source 
from which the Old Latin version if^ was made, except for three 
corrections derived from its companion Greek manuscript D*; the 
Old Latin it ^ is a later faithful copy of if*. The text of Anti-Cl also 
was used for the Syriac Peshitta version (syr?) except for three 
variants that were probably the fault of the translator. A mixture of 
Anti-BC and Anti-Cl was the primary text from which the Syriac 
Harclean version (syr*^) was made, except for one random variant 

Sometime during the fourth century, variant 7.1 was introduced 
into the Anti-BC text producing Anti-BC 1.''* This branch is witnessed 
by manuscript 181 and the subsequent Byzantine tradition (Byz-A, 
Byz-B, lectionaries, and manuscripts K, 1739, 1881, and 2495), which 
exhibits further mixture and correction. This text (Anti-BCl) also 
was mixed with Anti-ABC about the end of the fourth century, 
producing branch Anti-ABCl; this branch is witnessed by manu- 
scripts 614, 629, and 630, and by the text of Theodoret. 

The Caesarean Text- type 

The Caesarean text-type (figure 5) exhibits itself vaguely, since it 
appears that mixture took place quite early; only two witnesses seem 
to be Caesarean: manuscript 436 and the Greek text behind the 
Armenian version (arm). The distinguishing characteristics are the 
common variants 4.2 and 9.2, with no Antiochan or Western group 

The proto-Caesarean text originated about the end of the second 
century with the variant 4.2.'^ Shortly afterward this early text was 
mixed with a branch of the Antiochan text to produce the text of 

Variant 7.1 may be the result of careless omission, or a correction made under 
the influence of the Western text or of Alex-B. 

'^See previous comments in n. 7. The date is only approximate since the earliest 
extant witness is the Armenian version (c. 400). However, the evidence of mixture with 
Anti-C (c. 250) suggests the possible date of a.d. 200. 

price: textual commentary on philippians 



Anti-C. Sometime within the next hundred years Proto-Caesarean 
was mixed with Proto- Western, picking up variant 9.2 and producing 
the subsequent Caesarean text (Caes). 

The Western Text- type 

The Western text-type (figure 5) is witnessed by manuscript ^, 
by the texts of Ambrosiaster, Chrysostom, and Victor of Rome, and 
by texts behind the Gothic version (goth) and the Latin versions (vg, 
it^r, its it'^"'", if^'^*, it'i'^S itf, if", it^, it^*, it^^). 

The proto-Western text originated about the end of the first 
century with variant 9.2 common to all its descendants.'^ This early 
text seems to have mixed with Proto-Caesarean and subsequently 
found its way into one branch of the Antiochan text. Sometime in the 
first quarter of the second century, a new branch originated (West-1) 
introducing variant 7.1; this branch is witnessed by the text of Victor 
of Rome (except for two corrections and two random variants). 
Shortly afterward a second branch (West-2) originated with variant 
3.2; this branch is witnessed by manuscript ¥ (except for three 
Alexandrian corrections). 

Sometime in the first half of the third century the text of West-2 
developed two variants independently (6.2, 4.3), producing branches 
West- A (6.2) and West-B (4.3).'^ The text of West-A underwent 
further degradation through West-Al, West-A2, and West- A3 to 
produce the Gothic version and the texts of Chrysostom. 

The text of West-B was the source used by Jerome to produce 
the Latin Vulgate (vg) from which numerous faithful copies were 
made (it^ it ''«'", it^i^*, it^, and it*). About the middle of the third 
century a variant (10.2) was introduced into West-B, producing West- 
Bl; this text is witnessed by it'^ (with one additional variant). Shortly 
afterward, two more variants (11.2, 12.3) were introduced into West- 
Bl, producing West-B2; this text is witnessed by it^'' (with two addi- 
tional variants). 

About the end of the third century there was a mixture of texts 
West-A and West-B, producing West-AB; this text is witnessed by 
i^divc^ i^zc^ and it^* (with one unique variant). The text of Ambrosiaster 
is a mixture of West-AB and West-B2 (except for three variants). 

This reconstructed history of the text may be regarded as a good 
approximation because it meets the basic expectations of such a 

""The date is only approximate since the earliest extant witnesses are the Gothic 
version (c. 350), Victor of Rome (c. 362), and Ambrosiaster (c. 350), each several 
generations removed. 

"Variant 8.3 is a phenomenon of translation, not a variant of the Greek text. The 
versions where this variant is specified could not distinguish between reading 8.1 and 
8.2. The witness of Chrysostom verifies that the Western text had the original reading 8.2. 

price: textual commentary on philippians 271 

history: succeeding generations exhibit chronological consistency; 
variants introduced by a parent exemplar explain the presence of the 
same variant in all descendant generations of the given branch; there is 
reasonable simplicity and orderliness in the structure of the diagram. 

The next section classifies each extant witness used in this study, 
identifying its role in the reconstructed history. Although there is 
some redundancy with the preceding history, the classification of each 
witness is valuable for helping to locate a witness on the diagrams 
and to evaluate the contribution of its witness. 


This section lists the classification of each manuscript (or equiva- 
lent) used in this study as far as the sixteen variation units used in the 
study can determine. Each is classified by its immediate genealogical 
ancestry (its most Ukely exemplar) and by any deviations from its 

X* a faithful copy of Alex- AC except for one variant 
(14.2) unique to this manuscript, probably due to 
scribal carelessness 
X'^ a faithful collation of Alex-A5 and Alex-B containing 
all the variants of both with one correction restoring 
an original reading (13.4) 
A a faithful collation of Alex-AC and Alex-A4 contain- 
ing all variants of both 
B* a copy of B^ with one random variant (13.2), a care- 
less omission of diacritical marks on the reading of B^ 
B^ a faithful copy of Alex-BCl except for one random 

variant (16.1), a careless omission. 
C an incomplete manuscript that appears to be a copy 
of X* except for one unique variant (8.6), a careless 
D* a careless copy (or revision) of Alex-A6 introducing 
five random variants (2.4, 10.2, 12.3, 13.2, 15.4) and 
one correction, 8.2, restoring an original reading 
D*^ a faithful collation of Anti-A and Anti-B containing 

all the variants of both 
G* a copy of Alexandrian manuscript C^ with one unique 

variant (10.3), a careless metathesis 
G^ a careless recension of Alex-B 1 introducing seven 
random variants (1.3, 2.2, 4.3, 10.2, 13.2, 16.1) (This 
recension was made to be the exemplar for the in- 
dependent Old Latin version its. This manuscript has 
some Western readings, but they match no observed 


Western group patterns; thus its classification as 
I an incomplete manuscript that appears to be a copy 
of Alex-C with one correction (3.2), probably from 
Alex- A 1 or a descendant 
K a faithful copy of Anti-BC2 

P a collation of X'^ and Alex-A7 containing all the 
variants of both with one random variant (13.2), a 
careless omission of diacritical marks 
T a late copy of West-2 with three Alexandrian correc- 
tions (5.1, 8.4, 12.5) not closely related genealogically 

p'^^ a careless collation of Alex-Bl and Alex-C, introduc- 
ing three unique variants (1.4, 7.3, 9.3) and three ran- 
dom variants (2.1, 10.2, 15.3), all due to carelessness 
33 a copy of Alex-Cl with three corrections (3.2, 6.2, 

1 1.2) possibly due to scribal emendations 
81 a copy of Alex-A4 with one unique variant (13.1), a 

careless scribal error 
88 a copy of Anti-Cl with one random variant (8.1), a 
case of careless omission 

104 a faithful copy of Alex-A2 with one correction (13.4) 
restoring an original reading 

181 a faithful copy of Anti-BC 1 

326 a copy of Anti-C with one variant (15.3), possibly 
accidental omission 

330 a faithful copy of Alexandrian manuscript 45 1 

436 a copy of the Caesarean text with three Alexandrian 
corrections (8.1, 11.2, 15.3), or possibly cases of 
scribal carelessness 

451 a copy of Alex-A2 with one unique variant (5.3), a 
careless addition, and one correction (4.2) conforming 
a plural to a singular earlier in the verse 

614 a copy of the Antiochan text of Theodoret with one 
correction (13.3), probably from Anti-ABC2 or a 

629 a copy of Antiochan manuscript 614 with two correc- 
tions restoring original readings (2.3, 12.4) 

630 a faithful copy of Anti-ABCl 

1241 a copy of Alex-A4 with one correction (13.4), restor- 
ing an original reading 

1739 a copy of the Byzantine tradition (Byz-A) with one 
correction (4.1) restoring an original reading, and two 
random variants (8.1 and 12.1), cases of careless 
omission (The common ancestor of manuscripts 1739 

price: textual commentary on philippians 273 

and 1881 must have had a defect at variation unit 12.) 
1877 a copy of Anti-C with one correction, 13.3, from an 

undetermined source 
1881 a copy of Byzantine manuscript 1739 with one unique 
variant (12.2) and one random variant (16.1), a care- 
less omission 
1962 a collation of Alex-A6 and Alex-A7 

1984 a copy of Anti-ABC2 with one Western correction 

1985 a copy of Anti-ABC2 with one unique variant (8.5) 
and one random variant (5.1), a careless omission 

2 1 27 a faithful copy of Alex- A3 

2492 a faithful copy of Alexandrian manuscript 451 

2495 a copy of Anti-BC3 with one correction, restoring 

original reading 7.2 
Byz-A a collation of Anti-BC2 and Byz-B containing all 

variants of both 
Byz-B a faithful copy of Anti-BCl or manuscript 181 
Lect the lectionary tradition, a faithful copy of Anti-BC3 
vg the Latin vg, a faithful translation of West-B (The 
Latin versions could not distinguish between 8.1 and 
it^"^ a Latin translation of West-B2 with two random vari- 
ants (1.4, 15.2) probably due to translator emendations 
if^ a faithful copy of the vg 

if* an independent Old Latin translation from Anti-C2 
with three corrections (2.4, 10.2, 12.3) from its com- 
panion Greek text D* 
j^dem 2 faithful copy of the vg 
j^div* ^ faithful copy of the vg 
jtdivc a faithful Latin translation of West-AB 
it^ a faithful copy of Antiochan Old Latin if* 
it*^ a faithful Latin translation of West-B 1 with one 

random variant (16.1), a careless omission 
its an independent Old Latin translation from Alexan- 
drian C^ with one unique variant (15.7) and one 
correction (13.3) properly supplying the diacritical 
marks missing in its Greek source G^ 
if" an incomplete copy of the vg 
it^ a faithful copy of the vg 

it^* a Latin translation of West-AB 1 with one unique 
variant (15.6), a translator's blunder, and one correc- 
tion (6.1) restoring an original reading 
it ^'^ a faithful Latin translation of West-AB 1 













a Syriac translation of a collation of Anti-BC and 
Anti-Cl with one correction (8.4) from an undeter- 
mined source and one random variant (15.3), a care- 
less omission 

a Syriac translation of Anti-C2 with one unique 
variant (5.4) and two random variants (6.2, 15.5), an 
omission and a case of overtranslation 
the Coptic Boharic version translated from Alex-Cl 
with two random variants (4.2, 15.5), a case of care- 
lessness and overtranslation, and with one correction 
(6.2), possibly from Alex-BCl 

the Coptic Sahidic version translated from the text of 
B^ except for the translational ambiguity (8.3), with 
two random variants (4.3, 15.5), a case of omission 
and overtranslation 

the Armenian version translated from the Caesarean 
text (Caes-1) with four random variants (5.1, 6.2, 
10.2, 15.4), all the result of carelessness, and one 
correction (8.4) 

the Gothic version translated from West-A2 except 
for the translational ambiguity (8.3) and one random 
variant (15.3), accidental omission 
the Ethiopic version (Pell Piatt and Praetorius) trans- 
lated from a collation of Alex- AC 1 and Alex-A5 
the Ethiopic version (Rome) faithfully translated from 
Alex- AC 1 

the text of the Western church father, a collation of 
West-AB and West B2 with three random variants 
(1.3, 15.4, 16.1) due to carelessness and one correction 
(3.1) restoring an original reading 
the text of the North African church father, incom- 
plete, but possibly a copy of Alex-Cl with one random 
variant (15.4) 

the text of the Western church father, a copy of West- 
A3 (This text verifies that the Western text had the 
original reading 8.2. Chrysostom also had a text that 
was a collation of West-A2 and West-A3, with two 
random variants [2.1 and 13.3].) 

the text of the Alexandrian church father, incomplete, 
but possibly a copy of Alex-A2 

the text of the Caesarean church father, incomplete, 
but evidently a copy of the Alexandrian text Alex-A4 
the text of the Alexandrian church father, incomplete, 
but possibly a copy of Alex-A4 

price: textual commentary on philippians 275 

Hilary the text of the Western church father, incomplete, but 
possibly a copy of Alex-C with one correction (13.4) 
John of the text of the Eastern church father, a copy of Anti- 
Damascus ABC with one correction (11.2), possibly from the 
text of Theodoret 
Origen the text of the North African church father, incom- 
plete, but probably a copy of Alex-BC (Along with 
the expected 9.1, Origen had a text reading 9.2.) 
Theodoret the text of the Eastern church father, a copy of Anti- 
ABCl with one random variant (11.2) (Along with 
the expected 9.1, Theodoret also had a text reading 
Victor of the text of the Western church father, a copy of 
Rome West-1 with two corrections (12.3, 13.3) from un- 
known sources, and two random variants (8.3, 16.1) 

textual commentary 

This section evaluates each variant reading, giving an estimated 
genealogical probability of its being the reading of the original auto- 
graph (external evidence), and the possible cause of its origination if 
not the original reading (internal evidence). The probability is esti- 
mated on the basis of agreement among ancient independent witnesses 
as determined by the computer program within the bounds of its 
hmitations. The estimate considers all second-generation witnesses to 
be of equal weight ( Alex-A, Alex-B, Alex-C, Anti-A, Anti-B, Anti-C, 
Caes, West- A, West-B;'^ a total of nine for this problem). This gives 
the Alexandrian and Antiochan texts a weight of three, the Western 
text a weight of two, and the Caesarean text, one. 

In estimating probability, a reading would be given a weight of 
one for each second-generation branch that wholly supports it. Thus a 
reading that is supported wholly by seven second-generation branches 
would have an estimated probability of ^9 = 0.77. If a reading is 
partially supported by a second-generation branch, a weighting pro- 
portionately less than one would be assigned for that branch based on 
an estimated proportion of its support. For example, in a given 
second-generation branch, if a reading is supported by two out of 
three third-generation branches, the reading would be assigned a 
weighting of ^3 = 0.67 for the given branch. Thus a reading that is 
supported wholly by five second-generation branches and partially 
(say 0.67) by another second-generation branch would have an esti- 
mated probability of ^^^9 = 0.63. An estimated probability of 1.0 

'*In the case of the Western text, West-A and West-B are fourth-generation 
witnesses, but they represent the first major branching of the Western text. 


means that all ancient witnesses wholly support the reading and there 
is no doubt that it is the reading of the autograph; a probability of 0.0 
means that the reading is not supported by any ancient witnesses and 
there is no possibility of its being the reading of the autograph. 

This method provides an objective means for estimating genea- 
logical probabilities. Although some uncertainty is involved and some 
subjective judgment is required, the results provide a more objective 
means of determining cumulative genealogical weight than current 

Readings Evaluated 

This section evaluates each variant, listing its estimated proba- 
bility of being the original reading and the evidence supporting the 
reading. The decision is compared with the choice of five modern 
English versions (KJV, NKJV, NIV, NASB, and RSV), and with the 
choice of ten critical commentators or textual editors (H. Alford, 
F. F. Bruce, J. Eadie, G. F. Hawthorne, J. B. Lightfoot, H. A. W. 
Meyer, J. J. Muller, A. T. Robertson, M. R. Vincent, and Westcott 
and Hort). Also mentioned are the choices of K. Lachmann and 
C. von Tischendorf when cited in one of the above commentators. 
(Subsequent references to commentators include only these.) The 
choice of UBSGNT^ is listed together with its estimated degree of 
certainty in parentheses. In every case, Nestle-Aland (Novum Testa- 
mentum Graece, 26th ed.) agrees with the choice of UBSGNT^ and is 
not mentioned separately.'^ 

Philippians 1:11 

1.1. Kai enaivov deov (probability 0.96). Supported by all Alex- 
andrian (except two fourth-generation branches Alex-A6 and G'^, 
both of which are closely related to recensions), by all Antiochan and 
Caesarean, and by all Western (except one late negligible branch, 
West-ABl). The evidence is strong and distributed with only very 
weak alternatives. So UBSGNT^ (B), all versions, and commentators. 

1.2. Kai enaivov //^/cttod (probability 0.02). Supported by only 
one fourth-generation branch (Alex-A6, witnessed by D* and 1962). 
This is likely due to a scribal error XY for 0Y (Metzger).^° 

1.3. Kai enaivov juoi (probability 0.02). Supported by one fourth- 
generation Alexandrian branch (G*^ and its descendants G* and it 8), 

B. M. Metzger {Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament [London: 
United Bible Society, 1971]) treats five additional variant readings in Philippians. 
These were not included in this study because he did not give a complete list of 
manuscripts supporting each reading. 

^"References in this section are made to Metzger, Textual Commentary, 611-18. 

price: textual commentary on philippians 277 

and by Ambrosiaster in the West. These are apparently two indepen- 
dent scribal blunders; the reading has no parallel in Paul (Metzger). 

1.4. 9eou Kai enaivov ijuoi (probability 0.0). Supported only by 
p"^^ and it^'^ (virtually). A possible conflation, one of several unique 
readings in p'^^. 

7.5. Kai Enaivov aurou (probability 0.0). Supported only by one 
late branch, West-ABl (it^* and it^*^). Possibly a simplification of the 
redundancy of xpioxoij (Metzger). 

Phihppians 1:14 

2.3. Xoyov zoo OeoO XaXdv (probability 0.89). Supported by all 
Alexandrian (except p"*^, D*, and G<^ with its descendants), by two 
second-generation branches of Antiochan (Anti-A and Anti-C), by 
Caesarean and all Western. Contrary to UBSGNT^, the evidence is 
strong and distributed with only one weak alternative. Supported by 
NASB, NIV, RSV, Bruce, Lachmann, Lightfoot, Muller, Tischendorf, 
Vincent, and Westcott-Hort. 

2.1. Xoyov XaXeTv (probability 0.11). Supported only by one 
second-generation branch (Anti-B)^' and p"*^. Best understood as a 
careless omission. The support is weak and local. This reading is the 
choice of KJV, NKJV, Alford, Eadie, Hawthorne, and Meyer, as 
well as UBSGNT3(D). However, Metzger admitted that 2.3 has the 
better weight and distribution, but rejected it as an apparent scribal 
expansion, allowing subjective judgment to overrule strong external 

2.2. Xoyov Kopiov XaXEiv (probability 0.0). Supported only by 
one fourth-generation Alexandrian branch (G'= and its descendants). 
Probably a confusion of KY for 0Y, because G'= contains several 
other careless blunders. 

2.4. Xoyov XaXziv too Oeov (probability 0.0. ). Supported only by 
D* and its Old Latin companion it'' (with its descendant it^). Prob- 
ably careless metathesis; D* contains several other careless blunders. 

Phihppians 2:2 

3.1. ev (probability 0.80). Supported by all Alexandrian (except 
Alex-Al, Alex-A6, I and 33), by all Antiochan and Caesarean, and 
by Proto-West and West-1. The evidence is strong and distributed. 
Supported by all versions, all commentators and UBSGNT3(B). 

^'it is noted that Anti-B practically dominates the main portion of the Antiochan 
text. If a weight of 3.0 were given to reading 2. 1 on this basis, its probability would still 
be only 0.33, not enough to outweigh the strong support of reading 2.3, which would 
still have a probability of 0.67, with a ratio of two to one. 


3.2. avTO (probability 0.20). Supported by one third-generation 
Alexandrian branch (Alex-Al), one fourth-generation Alexandrian 
branch (Alex-A6), and by most of the Western text except the earliest 
witnesses (Proto-West and West-1). These probably are the result of 
independent instances of scribal assimilation of the preceding auxo 

Philippians 2:4 

4.1. EKaazoi (probability 0.45). Supported by all Alexandrian 
(except three fourth-generation branches, Alex-C2, Alex-ACl, and 
G^ with its descendants) and by two of three second-generation 
Antiochan branches (Anti-A and Anti-B), although they contribute 
little to the main Antiochan tradition for this variation unit. The 
evidence is moderate with some distribution. So UBSGNT3(B), sup- 
ported by all commentators. The choice of the versions is unclear. 

4.2. eKaazoQ (probability 0.31). Supported by one fourth- 
generation Alexandrian branch (cop''°), by one second-generation 
Antiochan branch (Anti-C), by Caesarean, and by one fifth-generation 
Western branch (West-Al). But this is probably due to an early 
scribal error in Proto-Caesarean also committed independently in 
West-Al and cop''*', conforming to the singular at the first part of the 
verse, particularly because the plural form is very rare and so is 
unexpected. However the witness of Anti-C may be given more 
weight since this reading is abundant in the Antiochan text. This 
reading is supported by the KJV. 

4.3. omit (probability 0.24). Supported by one fourth-generation 
Alexandrian branch (Alex-ACl), by 0*= (with its descendants) and 
cop^^, and by West-B and West-AB. The word was probably omitted 
as superfluous (Metzger). This reading seems to be supported by all 
the versions except KJV, but this may be due to translational 

Philippians 2:5 

5.2. Tovzo yap (probability 0.80). Supported by all Alexandrian 
(except Alex-Cl and Alex-A4), by all Antiochan (except Anti-BC3 
and 1985), by part of Caesarean, and all Western (except ^). The 
early witness is strong and distributed, contrary to UBSGNT^. Sup- 
ported by Eadie and Meyer. 

5.1. tovro (probability 0.20). Supported only by a few unrelated 
branches — by two third-generation Alexandrian branches (Alex-Al 
and Alex-Cl), by one fourth-generation Antiochan branch (Anti-BCl, 
the Byzantine tradition), by part of Caesarean (arm), and by T and 

price: textual commentary on philippians 279 

1985. These are best understood as careless omissions, possibly be- 
cause the logical connection implied by ydp is difficult to understand. 
Metzger found no good reason for the omission of ydp, but the weak 
external evidence does not justify accepting it as original. In spite of 
the evidence, this reading is supported by all the versions, most of the 
commentators, and by UBSGNT3(C). 

5.3. TODTO ODV (probability 0.0). Supported only by 451 and its 
own two descendants, all late. Obviously a scribal innovation. 

5.4. Kai xomo (probability 0.0). Supported only by the Syriac 
version syrP. Obviously a translator's innovation not supported by 
any Greek authority. 

Philippians 2:12 

6.1. coQ (probability 0.76). Supported by all Alexandrian (except 
Alex- AC 1 and Alex-BCl), by all Antiochan (except syrP), by part of 
Caesarean, and by West-B. The evidence is strong and distributed, so 
UBSGNT3(B). Supported by all the versions (except NIV) and all the 

6.2. omit (probability 0.24). Supported by only two fourth- 
generation Alexandrian branches (Alex-ACl and Alex-BCl), by part 
of Caesarean (arm), and by West-A. The copyists may have omitted 
the word as superfluous or may have done so accidentally (Metzger). 
Supported by NIV, but this may be due to translational smoothing. 

Philippians 2:26 

7.2. VjudQ iSeiv (probability 0.56). Supported by two of three 
second-generation Alexandrian branches (Alex-A and Alex-C), by all 
Antiochan (except Anti-BCl, the Byzantine tradition), and by 
Caesarean. Contrary to UBSGNT-\ the evidence is moderate and 
distributed. Metzger regarded the insertion of iSeiv to be more likely 
than its omission. But the probability favors i58iv as original, and 1:8 
would set the pattern for its omission. The reading is supported by 
Bruce and Meyer, and is included in brackets by Lachmann and by 
Westcott and Hort. 

7.1. vpidq (probability 0.44). Supported by one second-generation 
Alexandrian branch (Alex-B), by one fourth-generation Antiochan 
branch (Anti-BCl, the Byzantine tradition), and by all Western. This 
may be the result of three separate cases of careless omission. The 
evidence is mild with some distribution. Although the probability is 
somewhat less for this reading, it is supported by most commentators, 
by all the versions, and by UBSGNT3(C). Metzger regarded the 
external evidence to be evenly balanced. 


73. npoc, vjudg (after gap) (probability 0.0). Supported only by 
p46. Another evidence of the carelessness of the copyist. 

Philippians 2:30 

8.2. TOD XpiGxou (probability 0.55). Supported by all Antiochan 
and all Western. Although most witnesses of the Western text are 
versions that cannot distinguish between 8.1 and 8.2, the evidence of 
Chrysostom verifies that the Western text had 8.2. Contrary to 
UBSGNT^, the evidence is stronger and more distributed than the 
other readings. Supported by Eadie. 

8.1. Xpiaxov (probability 0.17). Supported by only one third- 
generation Alexandrian branch (Alex-Bl), by part of Caesarean (late 
manuscript 436), and by two late Antiochan manuscripts of negligible 
weight (1739, 1881). This can be regarded as a few isolated cases of 
careless omission of a somewhat superfluous article. This reading is 
supported by Hawthorne, Muller, Vincent and by UBSGNT3(C). The 
versions do not distinguish between 8.1 and 8.2, but do support one 
or the other. The combined probability (0.72) of the two readings 
assures that at least XpiaxoO is original. 

8.4. Kvpiov (probability 0.28). Supported by all Alexandrian 
except one third-generation branch (Alex-Bl), by part of Caesarean 
(arm), and by ^ (of negligible weight). The reading may have been 
substituted for XpioxoO by copyists who remembered a similar ex- 
pression from 1 Cor 15:58 and 16:10 (Metzger). Supported by West- 
cott and Hort. 

8.5. Tov 0801) (probability 0.0). A unique reading of 1985 un- 
known to any of its near relatives. May have originated from the 
confusion of XY for 0Y (Metzger) or from accidental theological 
substitution, as perhaps Chrysostom did in his commentary. 

8.6. omit (probability 0.0). A unique reading of C, a careless 
omission not known to its near relatives. In spite of the unlikelihood 
of this reading, it is preferred by Alford, Lightfoot, Meyer, and 

Philippians 3:3 

9.1. 0EOV (probability 0.63). Supported by all Alexandrian 
except one third-generation branch (Alex-A3), and by all Antiochan. 
The evidence is strong with some distribution. Supported by NASB, 
NIV, by all the commentators, and by UBSGNT^ (C). 

9.2. deep (probability 0.37). Supported by one third-generation 
Alexandrian branch (Alex-A3), by Caesarean and all Western. Ap- 
pears to be an emendation to provide an object for >iaTp8uovTS(; as in 

price: textual commentary on philippians 281 

Rom. 1:9 and 2 Tim 1:3 (Metzger). Supported by KJV, NKJV, and 

9.3. omit (probability 0.0). Supported only by p"^^. A careless 
omission unknown to its near relatives. Further evidence of the 
carelessness of p'^^. 

Philippians 3:12 

10.1. sXa/^ov rj rjSrj zEieAeicojuai (probability 0.87). Supported by 
all Alexandrian except one fourth-generation branch (G*^ with its 
descendants) and two fifth-generation branches (D* and p"^^), by all 
Antiochan, by part of Caesarean (436), and by all Western except one 
fifth-generation branch (West-Bl). The evidence is strong and dis- 
tributed. Supported by all versions, all commentators, and by 

10.2. sla/^ov f] rjSrj SeSiKaicojuai rj fjdrj TeiEAeicojuai (probability 
0.13). Supported by the three fourth- or fifth-generation Alexandrian 
branches mentioned above, all of which exhibit evidence of careless- 
ness, and part of Caesarean (arm). See Metzger's explanation. 

10.3. eXafiov tj rjSrj rEZEAaicD^ai rj fjSr} SESiKaicojuai (probability 
0.0). The unique reading of one manuscript (G*), the careless 
metathesis of the text of its exemplar (G'^). 

Philippians 3:13 

//./. ov (probability 0.78). Supported by two of three second- 
generation Alexandrian branches (Alex-B and Alex-C), by all Anti- 
ochan, part of Caesarean (arm), and by all of Western except two 
minor branches (West-Al and West-B2). The evidence is strong and 
distributed. Supported by KJV, NKJV, RSV, by six of the commen- 
tators, and by UBSGNT^ (C). 

11.2. 01)71(0 (probability 0.22). Supported by one second- 
generation Alexandrian (Alex-A), by part of Caesarean, and by two 
minor Western branches (West-A2 and West-B2). An emendation by 
copyists eager to strengthen Paul's protestations (Metzger). In spite of 
the weak support, this reading was preferred by NASB, NIV, Muller, 
Tischendorf, and Vincent; and Westcott and Hort included it in 

Philippians 3:16 

12.4. TO avTO fpovEiv, xcp auzcp Kavovi aioiXEiv (probability 0.52). 
Supported by the bulk of two second-generation Alexandrian 
branches (Alex-A and Alex-B), by two second-generation Antiochan 
branches (Anti-A and Anti-B with limited weight), by Caesarean, and 


the bulk of Western. The evidence is strong and distributed, UBSGNT^ 
notwithstanding. Readings 12.3 and 12.5 bear witness of this one in 
altered form. Their combined probabilities (0.90) assure the original- 
ity of this reading against the alternatives. Metzger regards to amb 
(ppovsiv to be a gloss (cf. 12.5); but in this reading, which has the 
stronger probability, it cannot be a gloss; 12.5 is more likely explained 
as metathesis on this reading. 

12.5. rep avTcp azoixsTv Kavovi, to amb (ppovEiv (probability 0.30). 
Supported by one fourth-generation Alexandrian branch (Alex-A5), 
by one second-generation Antiochan branch with heavy weight 
(Anti-C), and by one minor Western branch (West-A3). Only moder- 
ate strength with limited distribution. Probably arose from careless 
metathesis of 12.4, the evident original reading from which this one 

12.3. TO auTO g)pov£iv, tco avTW GTOixdv (probability 0.08). Sup- 
ported only by two minor Alexandrian branches (D* and G^) 
both evidencing carelessness, and by one minor Western branch 
(West-B2) with Victor of Rome. Probably arose by careless omission 
of Kavovi from 12.4, the evident original reading. 

12.1. T(b dvT(b aToi/eiv (probability 0.10). Supported only by 
one second-generation Alexandrian branch (Alex-C), and one fourth- 
generation branch (Alex-AC). Probably arose because of homoe- 
oteleuton, limited to one branch. It lacks strength or distribution. In 
spite of the weak external evidence, this reading is preferred by 
NASB, NIV, RSV, most of the commentators, and by UBSGNT3(B). 
But this reading can be explained by one scribal error in only one 
exemplar (Alex-C). 

12.2. TO avTO (ppovdv (probability 0.0). The unique reading of 
one late manuscript (1881) unknown to its near relatives. Probably 
arose because of homoeoteleuton from 12.5, the reading of most of its 

Philippians 3:21 

13.4. eavTCp (probability 0.55). Supported by several minor 
Alexandrian branches, by the bulk of all three second-generation 
Antiochan branches (except a few minor ones — Anti-ABC2, Anti- 
BC2, Anti-C 1, 1877), by Caesarean, and by all Western (except two 
church fathers). The evidence is moderately strong and distributed, 
contrary to Metzger who evaluated the authorities as inferior. The 
reading appears to be supported by KJV, NKJV, NASB, and RSV, 
although they may have translated 13.3 (autw) as a reflexive. 

13.3. avTcp (probability 0.39). Supported by the bulk of the 
Alexandrian text (except those minor branches supporting 13.2 and 

price: textual commentary on philippians 283 

13.4), by minor Antiochan branches (Anti-ABC-2, Anti-BC2, Anti- 
Cl, and 1877), and by two Western church fathers (Chrysostom and 
Victor of Rome). This is the preference of UBSGNT3(B), but the 
evidence is weak, and though distributed, it appears in minor branches 
outside the Alexandrian text. This probably arose through several 
independent emendations of copyists following the prevailing Helle- 
nistic usage in which the unaspirated form came to function as a 
reflexive in addition to its normal usage (Metzger). The reading is 
supported by NfV and by most of the commentators. 

13.2. avzco (probability 0.06). Supported by a few minor 
Alexandrian branches (Alex- AC, D*, C^, and B*). Arose because of 
careless omission of diacritical marks from 13.3, the prominent 
Alexandrian reading. These probably support the reading 13.3 against 
13.4. The evidence is weak and localized. 

13.1. auTcp (probability 0.0). The unique reading of one late 
manuscript (81) unknown to any of its near relatives. Accepted as the 
probable reading by UBSGNT^, it was rightly rejected by UBSGNT^. 
Expected by the generally accepted conventions of Greek orthography 
(Metzger), this must have arisen because of a copyist's correction of 
the Hellenistic usage (13.3) in North Africa. Supported only by 
Westcott and Hort. 

Philippians 4:3 

14.1. T(bv Xoinwv avvspycQv ^od (probability 1.0). Supported by 
all witnesses except X*. The reading is supported by all versions and 
commentators. In spite of the overwhelming evidence for this reading, 
UBSGNT^ gave it a degree of certainty of only "B," probably because 
of respect for X*, the only clear witness against it. 

14.2. Tcbv aovepycov ^ov Kai zcov Aoinojv (probability 0.0). The 
unique reading of X* unknown to any of its near relatives.'^ Due to 
scribal inadvertence (Metzger). This variation unit contributed nothing 
to the reconstruction of textual history. Unique readings of this kind 
need not be included in the data base, nor, for that matter, in the 
critical apparatus. 

Philippians 4:16 

75.7. dq zrjv ;f/?£/av juoi (probability 0.65). Supported by all 
Alexandrian (except one third-generation branch, Alex-A2, and one 
fifth-generation branch, Alex-A7), by two of three second-generation 
Antiochan branches (Anti-B and Anti-C), and by all Western (except 

Papyrus p'^ seems to support this reading, but it is so fragmentary that its 
genealogical relationship to the other Alexandrian manuscripts cannot be determined. 


the Gothic version, the Latin it^^ it^, and Ambrosiaster). The evi- 
dence is moderately strong and distributed. This reading is preferred 
by UBSGNT3(C) and by Alford, Eadie, Hawthorne, Westcott-Hort 
and Lightfoot; most others did not discuss this variation unit. 

15.2. sig zrjv xp^^oi^ M^o (probability 0.13). Supported in Anti- 
ochan by one second-generation branch (Anti-A) and in Alexandrian 
by one fifth-generation branch (Alex-A7). Probably two independent 
scribal emendations of the less usual dative |ioi (Metzger). This 
reading seems to be supported by KJV, NKJV, and NASB. 

15.3. zfjv xP^io^v /uoi (probability 0.17). Supported by one third- 
generation Alexandrian branch (Alex-A2), by part of Caesarean, and 
by one minor Western branch (West-Al). Probably three independent 
cases of accidental omission of eiq after diq, or deliberate omission in 
order to provide a direct object for the verb 87r8|a\|/aTS (Metzger). This 
reading seems to be supported by NIV and RSV, although the ap- 
pearance may be due to translational smoothing. 

15.4. xfjv xpsiav juoo (probability 0.05). Supported only by D*, 
arm, Augustine, and Ambrosiaster. Probably four independent cases 
of combined omission and emendation as in 15.2 and 15.3. 

75.5. juoi eiQ xfjv xpsiav juov (probability 0.0). Supported by two 
versions, cop and syrP, but by no Greek authority. Apparently the 
result of overtranslation (Metzger) in an authority common to both, 
not shown in the genealogical diagram. 

15.6. in unum mihi (probability 0.0). A unique reading of one 
version, it^, unknown to its near relatives, or the Greek. 

15.7. in necessitatem meam vel usibus meis (probability 0.0). A 
unique reading of one version, its, unknown to its near relatives, or 
the Greek. 

Philippians 4:23 

16.2. vficbv. durfv (probability 0.89). Supported by all Alexandrian 
except three minor branches G<^, B^, and Euthalius, by all Antiochan 
and Caesarean, and by all Western except two minor branches (West- 
A3 and it^). The evidence is strong and distributed. The reading is 
supported by KJV and NKJV, by Bruce, Hawthorne, and Muller, 
and it is listed in brackets by Alford, Lachmann, and Lightfoot. 
Metzger regarded d^fiv to be a liturgical addition, but it is hard to 
explain a liturgical correction on a second-century papyrus (p'*^). 

16.1. ujuojv. (probability 0.11). Supported only by three minor 
Alexandrian branches (G^, B^, and Euthalius), and by two minor 
Western branches (West-A3 and it^). Probably due to omission by 
careless copyists. In each case the reading is unknown to near rela- 
tives. In spite of its weak support, this reading was preferred by 

price: textual commentary on philippians 285 


Comparison of Probabilities 


Probability of Variant 

Ratio of 








Two Highest 

































































































































NASB, NIV, RSV, by Eadie, Tischendorf, Vincent, Westcott and 
Hort, and by UBSGNT3(B). 

Results Compared 

Table 3 compares the genealogical probabilities of the variant 
readings involved in this study. The last column gives the ratio of the 
two highest probabilities. Where the ratio is greater than about 2.0, 
there is some confidence that the reading with the highest probability 
is the original one. For ratios less than 2.0, internal evidence is 
needed to confirm the probabilities. 

The following nine readings seem to be original on the basis of 
the genealogical probabilities: 1.1, 2.3, 3.1, 5.2, 6.1, 10.1, 11.1, 14.1, 
and 16.2. Reading 4.1 (eKaaxoi) has the probability advantage over 
4.2 (EKaoxoc,); this is supported by the internal evidence. Scribes 
would be more inclined to conform the inflexional number to the 
preceding singular than to make an inflexional change to the rare 
plural form. 

Reading 7.2 {\)[iaq IBeiv) has the probability advantage over 7.1 
(u|ia(;). Metzger rightly regarded the insertion of i5siv to be more 
likely than its omission; it appears to add an interpretive restraint to a 
more general statement. However, it is hard to explain the distribu- 
tion of such a sophisticated insertion. In this case, the internal 


probability is difficult to evaluate. Nevertheless, the superior strength 
of the genealogical support for 7.2 favors keeping iSeiv. 

Reading 8.2 (xoO Xpiaxou) has the probability advantage over 
8.4 (Kupiou) with a ratio just under 2.0. The latter reading is likely to 
have arisen through memory substitution. Its lack of support outside 
the Alexandrian branch agrees with the internal probabilities that 8.4 
is not original. (Arm and ^, the only outside support, appear to have 
experienced Alexandrian correction.) 

Reading 9.1 (Gsou) has the probability advantage over 9.2 (Bsco). 
The latter appears to be an emendation based on an apparent need 
for an object for the verb Xaxpe()ovT£c,. The internal probability 
agrees with the external probability of the superiority of 9.1. 

Reading 12.4 (to amb (ppoveiv, xw Kavovi aioixsiv) has the 
probability advantage over 12.5 (tw auxw oxoixsiv Kavovi, x6 ctuxo 
(ppovsiv). The latter can be explained as careless metathesis. Although 
the distribution of the reading is difficult to explain, there is sufficient 
agreement between the internal and external probabilities to support 
the superiority of 12.4. 

Reading 13.4 (sauxcp) has the probability advantage over 13.3 
(aCxQ). The latter may be regarded as an emendation to accom- 
modate Hellenistic usage. There is sufficient agreement of the internal 
and external probabilities to support the superiority of 13.4. 

Of the six readings for which the statistical-advantage ratio is 
less than 2.0, five are supported by internal evidence, and thus more 
likely to be original than their nearest competitors. Only with variant 
7.2 is the internal evidence uncertain. 

Of the sixteen readings selected as most likely to be original, nine 
agree with the choice of UBSGNT^ (1.1, 3.1, 4.1, 6.1, 9.1, 10.1, 11.1, 
14.1, 15.1); these readings also were the choice of all (or most) of 
the commentators. Of the seven that disagree with the choice of 
UBSGNT^, five are the choice of some commentators (2.3, 5.2, 7.2, 
8.2, 16.2); only two seem to have been rejected by all commentators 
(12.4, 13.4). Of these two, one (12.4) is an excellent example of the 
advantage of the genealogical method over the eclectic method; the 
genealogical method was able to explain the reading preferred by 
UBSGNT^ and the commentators (12.1) as having originated by one 
scribal error in only one exemplar. The second (13.4) is an example of 
how the genealogical method may demonstrate the superior distribu- 
tion of a reading supported by evidence regarded as inferior by 
Metzger and the commentators. 

Of the nine readings rated by UBSGNT^ with a certainty degree 
of "B," six were accepted here as original, and only three were 
rejected (12.1, 13.3, 16.1). The first two (12.1, 13.3) were discussed 
above. The third reading (16.1) was rejected because of its obvious 
lateness and lack of distribution; the accepted reading (16.2) was the 
choice of six of the commentators. It appears that Metzger and the 

price: textual commentary on philippians 287 

others allowed subjective reasons to overrule the strong external 
evidence in this case. 

Of the six readings rated by UBSGNT^ with a certainty degree of 
"C," three were rejected (5.1, 7.1, 8.1). The first (5.1) was rejected 
because the genealogical method exposed it as a few cases of late, 
sporadic, careless omission; whereas the accepted reading (5.2; with 
which two commentators agreed) exhibited early, wide distribution. 
The second (7.1) was rejected because the genealogical method dis- 
covered a weaker distribution for the reading which can be explained 
as three separate cases of careless omission; whereas the accepted 
reading (7.2) exhibited stronger distribution which cannot be ex- 
plained as wide-scale additions; and the accepted reading is the choice 
of four commentators. The third (8.1) was rejected because the genea- 
logical method exposed its lateness and lack of distribution, explain- 
ing it as a few isolated cases of careless omission of a somewhat 
superfluous article; whereas the accepted reading (8.2), supported by 
Eadie, exhibited much better distribution which cannot be explained 
as wide-scale additions. 

The one reading rated by UBSGNT^ with a certainty degree of 
"D" (2.1) was rejected as not original. The genealogical method 
exposed the reading as weak and local, explaining it as two iso- 
lated cases of careless omission; whereas the accepted reading (2.3; 
with which seven commentators agreed) exhibited strong, distributed 

Degradation of the text^^ 

Of the 118 manuscripts involved in this study (73 extant and 45 
created by the program), 97 exhibit simple descent from one ex- 
emplar; 20 exhibit descent from two exemplars; and only 1 exhibits 
descent from 3 exemplars. There were 27 that exhibited corrections 
from unidentified sources. This suggests that the text degraded in a 
simple fashion with only 18% experiencing mixture. 

Of the 21 manuscripts exhibiting mixture, 8 are dated 200 to 300, 
8 more are dated 350 to 500, and only 5 occurred after 500. This 
suggests that most of the mixture occurred in the third to sixth 
centuries, with none necessarily occurring in the first two centuries. 
These mixed texts may represent simple recensional attempts to 
recover a more authoritative text. 

Of the 118 manuscripts, 27% were faithful copies of their parent 
exemplar; another 46% introduced only one random variant or 
correction; another 13% introduced two random variants or correc- 
tions; only 8% introduced three random variants or corrections; and 

'^The reader is reminded that the following observations are still an interpretation 
of the results of the computer analysis and are subject to all the limitations previously 


only 6% introduced more than three. This suggests that the degrada- 
tion was gradual. The fact that only 27 manuscripts appear to have 
made corrections suggest that the degradation was cumulative with 
little self-correction. Those manuscripts introducing a large number 
of variants were probably complex recensions. 

Versions and Fathers 

The ancient versions were usually made from a form of the then 
current local text. The Coptic and Ethiopic versions were made from 
forms of the Alexandrian text; the Syriac versions were made from 
forms of the Antiochan text (with Caesarean mixture); the Armenian 
version was made from the Caesarean text (with Western mixture); 
and the Gothic and Latin versions were made from forms of the 
Western text. The only exception seems to be some of the Old Latin 
versions: the Old Latin it'' seems to have been translated from a form 
of the Antiochan text (Anti-C2); and the Old Latin its seems to have 
been translated from a form of the Alexandrian text (G^^). 

The church fathers usually quoted from a form of their current 
local text. North African fathers Augustine, Clement, Euthalius, and 
Origen quoted from forms of the Alexandrian text. Eastern fathers 
John of Damascus and Theodoret quoted from forms of the Anti- 
ochan text. Western fathers Ambrosiaster, Chrysostom, and Victor of 
Rome quoted from forms of the Western text. The only exceptions 
were Western father Hilary who seems to have quoted from a form of 
the Alexandrian text, and Caesarean father Eusebius who seems to 
have quoted from a form of the Alexandrian. 


Several manuscripts in the study appear to be recensions that 
were made for a specific purpose. These are characterized by multiple 
parentage or a high percentage of random variants introduced in the 

Manuscript G^ appears to be a recension of the Alexandrian text 
(Alex-B). It introduces seven random variants, some of which are 
unique. These seven variants match no known grouping pattern in 
Philippians; but its three Alexandrian readings (7.1, 8.1, 13.3) match 
the grouping pattern of Alex-B 1, thus its classification as Alexandrian. 
The recension evidently was made to provide a Greek text from 
which to translate the independent Old Latin version its. 

Alex-ACl, a collation of Alex-A2, Alex-A3, and Alex-Cl, is the 
only manuscript with triple parentage. It appears to be a recension 
made to provide a Greek text from which to translate the Ethiopic 

price: textual commentary on philippians 289 

Manuscript D* appears to be a recension of the Alexandrian 
text (Alex-A6). It introduces five random variants, some of which are 
unique, and one correction. These five variants match no known 
grouping pattern in Phihppians; but its four Alexandrian readings 
(1.2, 9.2, 11.2, 13.3) match the grouping pattern of Alex-A6, thus its 
classification as Alexandrian. The recension was made to be a parallel 
text with the Old Latin version it*^, contributing three corrections to 
that version. For some strange reason, however, if^ was actually 
translated from an Antiochan text (Anti-C2), apart from the three 
corrections taken from D*. 

The Syriac version, syr*^, was made from a recension made by 
collating Anti-BC and Anti-Cl, with two new variants. The Armenian 
version was made from an apparent recension of the Caesarean 
(Caes-1) that introduced four random variants and one correction. 

Text-Types Compared 

Contrary to expectation, the Alexandrian text-type exhibited 
greater degradation at an earlier date than the others, and the 
Alexandrian manuscripts contained more variants on the average 
than those of its other traditions. Of the 31 manuscripts in the 
Alexandrian tradition there was a total of 228 variants introduced, 
making an average of 7.35 variants per extant manuscript. The 
Antiochan tradition had 23 manuscripts with 108 variants averaging 
4.70 per manuscript. The Caesarean tradition had an average of 6.0 
per manuscript, whereas the Western tradition averaged 6.82 per 
manuscript. ^"^ 

This study suggests that for Philippians the Antiochan tradition 
degraded the least in the early centuries, and that Antiochan manu- 
scripts are the most reliable. For example, the manuscripts tradition- 
ally regarded as most reliable were more distant from the autograph 
than the Byzantine tradition. Manuscript X* differed from the prob- 
able autograph by 8 variants, B* differed by 9, and p'^^ by 10, whereas 
Byz-B differed from the probable autograph by only 4 variants, 
and Byz-A by 5. This is explained on the basis of greater degrada- 
tion and mixture in the genealogical history of the Alexandrian 

Representative Manuscripts 

A set of 9 manuscripts was isolated from the 73 used in this 
study. These 9 serve as good representatives of the early form of the 

■''This comparison of necessity overlooks the fact that some sigla treated as a 
single manuscript really represent composite groups of manuscripts, so for example 
Byz and Lect in the Antiochan branch, vg in the Western branch, eth and cop in the 
Alexandrian branch, and arm in the Caesarean branch. 


four ancient text-types. From the Alexandrian tradition manuscripts 
a^, 33, and 104 approximately represent the witness of Alex-A, 
Alex-B, and Alex-C. From the Antiochan tradition manuscripts D'=, 
181, and 326 approximately represent the witness of Anti-A, Anti-B, 
and Anti-C. Manuscript 436 represents the Caesarean tradition, and 
vg and it'*'^'^ approximately represent the Western tradition. 

The mutual consent of these 9 manuscripts agrees with the read- 
ings of the autograph as determined by the genealogical witness of the 
entire set of 73. This suggests that these manuscripts may serve as an 
initial test of originaUty for variation units not included in this study. 
Wherever these 9 manuscripts grant a strong probability advantage to 
a given reading, it may be expected to be original. Wherever the 
advantage is weak or nonexistent, further study would be required. ^^ 


The computer program produced a preliminary genealogical his- 
tory for Philippians. It was possible to revise the computer generated 
tree diagram to produce an optimum configuration defining the 
genealogical relationships among the manuscripts. The resultant tree 
diagram exhibited consistency with chronology and the expectations 
of textual degradation. This reinforced the probability that the tree 
diagram is a good approximation of the actual history of the text. 

The reconstructed history confirmed four ancient text-types and 
demonstrated that the degradation of the text was gradual and simple. 
The genealogical history provides an objective means of estimating 
external probabilities and for evaluating the distribution of readings. 
In most cases, if not all, internal evidence seems to agree with the 
genealogical probabilities regarding the identity of original readings. 
Of the sixteen readings selected as original by this method, nine agree 
with the choice of the UBSGNT^, and seven disagree. In the latter 
cases, the objectivity of the method provides reason for greater confi- 
dence in the results. It appears that the computer program provided 
significant help in reconstructing an approximate genealogical history 
for the text of Phihppians and that the resultant history offers some 
confidence in the recovered original text. 

Obviously, more research must be done on genealogical theory, 
and a more complete textual apparatus must be compiled before 
significant confidence can be placed in computer-aided textual criti- 
cism. However, the results of this project seem to justify such further 
research. It is hoped that the comments and criticisms of interested 
scholars will enhance future research on this project. 

To the best degree possible on the basis of the evidence supplied by Metzger in 
his Textual Commentary, these 9 manuscripts seem to support the readings selected by 
him in the five additional variation units he listed for Philippians. 


The Message of Genesis 12-50, by Joyce G. Baldwin. The Bible Speaks 
Today. Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1986. Pp. 224. $7.95. Paper. 

Joyce G. Baldwin, former principal of Trinity College, Bristol, has 
established a reputation for well-done work. Her Tyndale commentaries: 
Daniel and Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi, plus her many articles have been 
well-accepted, and The Message of Genesis 12-50 will be no different. 

Placed in InterVarsity's The Bible Speaks Today series. The Message of 
Genesis 12-50 has a three-fold intent: "To expound the biblical text with 
accuracy, to relate it to contemporary life, and to be readable." As long as 
one remembers that "expound" here means to apply rather than to interpret 
Scripture, it can be said that Baldwin has achieved the aim of the series. The 
work is quite readable since footnotes and references to technical concerns in 
the text rarely detract from Baldwin's engaging style. Moreover, the applica- 
tion of Genesis to modern life is the heart of the book. 

Baldwin's most recent book grew out of a series of Bible expositions at 
Trinity College tailored to lead the college community to God in worship and 
prayer. Her approach throughout reveals her conviction that as God spoke to 
the patriarchs long ago, so he speaks through the patriarchs today to all who 
listen. Baldwin repeatedly draws parallels between those spiritual lessons 
confronting the patriarchs with those believers today face. To illustrate, 
regarding Genesis 15 Baldwin writes, "Abram was learning the basic lesson 
that every believer in turn has to learn, namely that God's delays are not 
denials" (p. 51). Also, Baldwin sees in Genesis 15 a portrait of the centrality 
of faith in every believer's life, a theme she finds repeated in the NT. 

At times, Baldwin introduces the reader to the relevance of the text in 
the broader framework of biblical theology. For example, her examination of 
Melchizedek incorporates the material from Psalm 110 and Hebrews 7. The 
author never moves far from her intention to apply the passage though, for 
her next paragraph contrasts the faith of Melchizedek with the faithlessness 
of the king of Sodom. 

Problems with this book are few. Occasionally the author makes a 
misleading statement as when she asserts that the language of the Mari letters 
is close to the language of the Pentateuch (p. 21). One would also hope that 
the editors of the Bible Speaks Today series would replace the RSV text with 
the NIV translation, particularly since there is also a NIV translation done 
especially for Britain. These detractions are minuscule, however, and do not 
weaken the book. 

In conclusion, those wishing guidance in applying the text of Genesis to 
contemporary life will appreciate this fine work. As long as one remembers 
that The Message of Genesis 12-50 is not a commentary, but a devotional 
work, one will not likely be disappointed. 

George L. Klein 
Criswell College 


Daniel, by John C. Whitcomb. Everyman's Bible Commentary. Chicago: 
Moody, 1985. Pp. 173. $5.95. Paper. 

Whitcomb's commentary takes its place in a series that has emphasized a 
popular, devotional approach to Scripture. However, the commentary has 
considerable depth in historical background, exegesis, and biblical theology. 
Whitcomb interacts with many other commentaries, both conservative and 
liberal. He also shows awareness of the periodical literature and scholarly 
monographs that elucidate the historical setting and exegetical problems of 
Daniel. He is concerned to show the relationship between Daniel and 
theology. Thus, this is not just another devotional commentary. Devotional 
emphasis is indeed present, but it is well balanced with critical and exegetical 
insight. For this reason Whitcomb's commentary stands above other devo- 
tional works by evangelicals. 

Whitcomb's approach to Daniel is conservative, premillennial, and dis- 
pensational. His interest in Daniel's historicity produced an earlier mono- 
graph, Darius the Mede: The Historical Chronology of Daniel (Phillipsburg, 
NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1959). Thus, it is not surprising to see a 
consistent defense of the authenticity of Daniel as a sixth century B.C. 
document. The defense is brief yet buttressed by citations from scholarly 
sources. Passages that are crucial for eschatological systems receive consider- 
able attention, including interaction with amillennial sources. All in all, 
however, the eschatological emphasis does not obscure Daniel's stress upon 
God's sovereignty in the present: "The absolute sovereignty and transcendance 
[sic] of God above all angels and men literally permeates the book" (p. 17). 

I do have some reservations about the book, mainly specific matters of 
interpretation or opinion. I wonder whether it is appropriate to classify John 
Goldingay as a "liberal" (p. 10). Further, I question whether Baldwin is 
wrong in viewing Daniel's knowledge of Babylonian culture as a model for 
believers today (pp. 31-31, cf. pp. 42-43). Though Whitcomb's approach to 
Daniel's symbolism is more cautious than that of some commentators, I tend 
to be even more cautious than Whitcomb when approaching the details of 
Nebuchadnezzar's great image of Daniel 2 (pp. 45, 49; cf. pp. 92, 94-95). I 
am not convinced by Whitcomb's view that "he" in Dan 1 1:40-45 is the King 
of the North, and that these verses should be correlated with the fatal yet 
temporary wounding of the beast in Revelation 13, 17. These reservations 
suggest that premillennialists need to come to better terms with the interpre- 
tation of apocalyptic literature and its prevalent symbolism. 

The format of the book is commendable in its incorporation of the 
outline into the body of the commentary. Happily, footnotes are used instead 
of endnotes. One could wish that the typesetters had put the entire outline of 
Daniel on one page; spreading it over two pages obscures the chiastic struc- 
ture of Daniel 2-7 which the outline is meant to convey (pp. 18-19). There 
are a few typographical errors, e.g., "Kutshcer" (for Kutscher; p. 38, n. 4), the 
omission of a footnote for a Baldwin citation (p. 74), and the reference to 
Whitcomb's former title as director of "doctrinal" (for doctoral!) studies at 
Grace Theological Seminary (back cover). 

Overall, I recommend this book highly. Christian "lay" persons as well 
as students in academic settings will profit from the book. It is a unique 


combination of scholarly insight, apologetic purpose, and devotional fervor. 
Those who use the book in academic settings will wish to supplement it with 
the scholarly works to which Whitcomb alludes. 

David L. Turner 
Grand Rapids Baptist Seminary 

The Letter of Paul to the Romans: An Introduction and Commentary, by 
F. F. Bruce. 2nd ed. Tyndale New Testament Commentaries. Leicester/ Grand 
Rapids: InterVarsity/Eerdmans, 1985. Pp. 274. $5.95. Paper. 

In dedicating his commentary on Romans to Simon Grynaeus, John 
Calvin indicated that he and Grynaeus both "felt that lucid brevity consti- 
tuted the particular virtue of the interpreter." F. F. Bruce's treatment of 
Romans lends tacit approval to Calvin's sentiment. This revised edition of 
Bruce's 1963 work is part of an ongoing project to update the popular 
Tyndale New Testament Commentaries. Leon Morris is editing this com- 
mendable updating process. The Tyndale series is one of the best values 
available in serious NT commentary sets. 

In his preface, Bruce relates that he has replaced the A V with the RSV 
and incorporated the results of additional research into the revision (p. 10). 
He acknowledges a special debt to the commentaries of E. Kasemann and 
C. E. B. Cranfield. A perusal of the volume indicates that Bruce's revisions 
are largely stylistic. His footnotes have been modified by the deletion of some 
sources and the addition of more recent ones. Overall it is fair to say that his 
view of Romans has not changed. A check of three crucial passages illustrates 
this. On Rom 5:12, Bruce has deleted the following statement which appeared 
in the 1963 edition (p. 130): "Although the Vulgate rendering of 'for that' 
(Gk. eph' ho) by 'in whom' (Lat. in quo) may be a mistranslation, it is a true 
interpretation." Evidently he has removed this questionable assertion in 
deference to Cranfield, whom he cites (1985 ed., p. 123). 

On another crux, Rom 7:14-25, the 1985 discussion rearranges some of 
the 1963 material but advocates the same view of the passage, namely that 
Paul describes in these verses his attempt to keep the law in his own strength. 
Incidentally, this was also the view of Alva J. McClain {Romans: The Gospel 
of God's Grace, ed. H. A. Hoyt [Chicago: Moody, 1973] 150). Though the 
same view is upheld, an important footnote referring to Mitton's work (1963 
ed., p. 153, n. 1) has been deleted, and there are no other sources cited, 
though several worthy studies could have been mentioned. Here I think Bruce 
could have shown more deference to other viewpoints. 

In his discussion of the restoration of Israel in Romans 11, Bruce's 
central views appear to be unchanged. He believes that the nation of Israel as 
a whole will turn to Christ, but he chides dispensationalists that Paul says 
nothing about a restored Davidic monarchy. Interestingly, the 1985 ed. 
significantly softens the tone of these remarks, making them agreeable to 
moderate forms of dispensationalism (1963 ed., p. 221; 1985 ed., p. 208). 

From these observations it can be concluded that there is no substantial 
change between the two editions of the commentary. There have been stylistic 
modifications and relatively minor additions and deletions that affect only the 


mood or flavor of individual paragraphs. Those who own the 1963 ed. need 
not rush out and purchase the 1985 ed. unless they wish to trace carefully the 
development in Bruce 's thought and profit from his updated footnotes. How- 
ever, these footnotes are not extensive. I wish that Bruce had interacted in 
more detail with the views of Kasemann and Cranfield, but this would have 
detracted from the apparent goal of lucid brevity. 

These things aside, it is hard to overestimate the value of the works of 
F. F. Bruce. His scholarship and clarity of expression are internationally 
renowned. This exposition of Romans will help specialists and nonspecialists 
alike study the transforming message of this epistle. 

David L. Turner 
Grand Rapids Baptist Seminary 

The Trinity in the Gospel of John: A Thematic Commentary on the Fourth 
Gospel, by Royce Gordon Gruenler. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1986. Pp. 159. 
$9.95. Paper. 

Royce Gruenler is a professor of New Testament at Gordon-Conwell 
Theological Seminary. Having had "a long flirtation with process theology 
that endured during the 1960s and ended in the early 1970s," Gruenler 
"returned to the centrality of the Word," but not without a deep appreciation 
for the "social nature of God." 

The book's preface, in which Gruenler describes his presuppositions, is 
fifteen pages long. And chap. 1, "The Social Nature of God" (containing 
more of the same material), amounts to a twenty-two page introduction. 
There are no footnotes or bibliography, but Gruenler refers to a number of 
sources within the text of the preface and chap. 1. After the final chapter 
(chap. 5), there is an appendix defending the historicity of John's Gospel. In 
the back are subject, author, and Scripture indexes. 

The reader may find many of the subtitles confusing or misleading. The 
terminology may seem strange to those unfamiliar with (former) process 
writers. Even so, Gruenler tells us that this book, the first of a trilogy on the 
Trinity, is intended for lay and student readers, as well as professional 

Concentrating on the discourses of Jesus, the author writes with an 
agenda of proving the mutuality of submission among the persons of the 
Trinity. He says, "Family, social, and communitarian language" is an "essen- 
tial component of creation itself" as well as "the central theme of redemptive 
history" (p. vii). Furthermore, personhood consists not so much in indi- 
viduality as in being other-centered (p. x). Crucial within the Trinity is the 
"attribute of disposability," of being available to serve others. This is what 
Christ did for the lost world. Yet this is also what the members of the Trinity 
do for each other. Thus, the Father serves the Son. And the "Triune Family," 
he says, are "servants of a fallen race" (p. xi). We, too, are to "wash one 
another's feet" within the church and within the world. 

Gruenler hopes his "thematic emphasis on mutual servanthood" will not 
be seen as an attack on God's cosmic order, but he believes that one-way 


submission on the part of Jesus (and the Spirit) toward the Father "lands one 
flatly in subordinationism" (p. xvi). The one-way submission of wife to 
husband (a doctrine that he finds debatable) is, according to Gruenler, itself 
rooted in the fall and is a necessary evil (cf. pp. xv-xvii). But he overlooks 
the argument of Paul in 1 Corinthians 1 1 that establishes woman's sub- 
ordination from the point of creation. Gruenler asserts that Christ submitted 
himself voluntarily to (by mutual agreement with) the Father in the case of 
man's redemption (p. xvii), and says that this was a special case — in other 
matters the Father "defers to" the Son. However, 1 Corinthians 1 1 says that 
God is the head of Christ and man is the head of woman in the divine order 
of things, not on a case-by-case or mutually agreed-upon basis. The Trinity is 
not a committee. Besides, all obedience, whether voluntary or necessary, is 

In chaps. 2-5 (the "commentary" section of the book), Gruenler moves 
chronologically through John "to see how mutual loving, generosity, glorifi- 
cation, equality, availability, disposability, and deference characterize the 
divine Family in the Gospel as a whole" (p. 23) (i.e., to prove his thesis of 
mutual submission among the persons of the Godhead). 

The book is indeed "a thematic commentary." The approach taken 
cannot be called exegetical. There is no persuasive synthesis of the book. Nor 
does Gruenler integrate his commentary with the purpose of John (cf. John 
20:31). Instead, he proceeds through the Gospel, picking out verses here and 
there, attempting to relate the Gospel of John to his theme. 

Gruenler does provide a fresh perspective on the interrelations among 
the persons of the Trinity. He reminds his readers that God is not a tyrant, 
but a loving Father, genuinely and totally committed to the well-being of his 
creatures, and that the Trinity is a community of persons who love each 
other, a notion very different from the modalism, adoptionism, etc., found 
among process theologians. 

Nevertheless, Gruenler misses the mark both Unguistically and theologi- 
cally when he makes all the persons of the Trinity servants of one another 
and of man. God is not man's servant, and the church is not the world's 
servant. He confuses loving concern with service. 

Most laymen and pastors will find this book difficult to read and not 
very helpful. It is recommended, however, for graduate students and other 
scholars interested in contemplation of this theme or in studying the writings 
of former process theologians. 

Robert J. Della Valle 
Dallas Theological Seminary 

Christian Theology, vol. 3, by Millard J. Erickson. Grand Rapids: Baker, 
1985. Pp. 845-1274. $19.95. Cloth. 

Vol. 3 of Christian Theology is dedicated to Wolfhart Pannenberg, one 
of Erickson's theological mentors, which is appropriate because of the sub- 
jects considered: the Holy Spirit, salvation, the Church, and eschatology. 
Given the response to the first two volumes of this series, vol. 3 has been 


highly anticipated. Perhaps because of the heightened anticipation, my 
response was disappointment. 

The treatment of the Holy Spirit is brief. There is little discussion 
devoted to the Spirit in the OT. The author rightly focuses upon the deity 
and personality of the Spirit, though not to the neglect of the Spirit's power. 
Following the pattern of the earlier volumes, Erickson addresses the contem- 
porary issues, in this case the charismatic movement. He cautiously concludes 
that it is difficult to determine whether the contemporary phenomena are 
authentic. He properly decides that the charismata are sovereignly given and 
are not to be sought. 

As indicated from his discussion of the decrees of God in vol. 1, Erickson 
treats the salvific themes from a moderately Calvinistic perspective. Although 
his discussion of these issues seems to be hurriedly written and lacks the 
creativity that has been Erickson's forte, he does provide a nice summary of 
justification, adoption, sanctification, and other major themes. Salvation, he 
says, is ultimately the restoration of a proper relationship with God. 

The subject of the third section is the church — both local and universal. 
The finest parts discuss baptism and the Lord's Supper. He rightly sees the 
Lord's presence at the supper (a Calvinistic position) but does not see this as 
an existential encounter (contra contemporary existential theologians). He 
understands baptism to be a testimony of salvation. He leans toward immer- 
sion as the proper form of baptism, though he seems open to other modes. I 
was hoping for interaction with pressing issues within evangelicalism such as 
the role of women and the place of the parachurch movement. Realizing that 
he had carefully entered into dialogue with present concerns in previous 
volumes, I quickly looked for these matters upon receiving this volume, but 
they were not to be found. 

The section on eschatology is a re-working of his Contemporary Options 
in Eschatology. He treats dispensationalism as an aberrant approach side-by- 
side with radical eschatologies, existential eschatologies, and theologies of 
hope. Considering the predominance of dispensationalism in evangelicalism, 
it at least deserved to be treated alongside amillennialism, postmillennialism, 
and historical premillennialism. Erickson contends for a historical premil- 
lennial position, as expected based upon his earlier work in Contemporary 
Options. Erickson stresses that eschatology should be studied not only for its 
information about last things, but for its present meaning. He draws our 
attention to apocalyptic elements concerning pictures of heaven and hell. 
Consistent with his overall evangehcalism, he denies universalism. 

My disappointment is no doubt due to my high anticipation and expec- 
tation. This, perhaps, says more about me than Erickson's writing. Yet, I 
have the impression that this volume did not receive the careful attention of 
vols. 1 and 2. This does not detract from the usefulness of the entire series, 
and I look forward to the publication of all three volumes in one. The 
evangelical community will be in debt to Millard Erickson for years to come. 
This series will without doubt become a standard textbook in evangelical 
seminaries and colleges. 

David S. Dockery 
Criswell College 


Unmasking the New Age, by Douglas R. Groothuis. Downers Grove: Inter- 
Varsity, 1986. Pp. 192. $6.95. Paper. 

"Is there a new religious movement trying to transform society?" Groot- 
huis, an instructor at the McKenzie Study Center in Eugene, Oregon, takes 
this question as a launching pad for his exploration of the New Age 

In his first chapter, the author identifies six distinctives of New Age 
thinking, contrasting them with a Christian world view. These distinctives 

1. All is One. This is monism: all that is, is one. "Ultimately," the 
author states, "there is no difference between God, a person, a carrot 
or a rock" (p. 18). The basic premise of the New Age movement is 
monism. Gordon R. Lewis in the Foreword describes monism as 
"the terminal disease at the heart of the New Age movement" (p. 9). 

2. All is God. This is pantheism. All is one, all is god. New Age 
thinking abandons the idea of a personal God and opts for an 
impersonal force or consciousness. 

3. Humanity is God. According to New Age thinking, we are all gods. 
Self-deification must be claimed and practiced. 

4. A Change in Consciousness. We must leave our ignorance behind 
and arrive at a transformed consciousness that "all is one, all is god, 
and we are god" (p. 24). This transformation can come through 
varied techniques such as meditation, yoga, or EST (Erhard Seminars 

5. All Religions are One. This is syncretism. Christianity and Christ are 
no longer distinctive. 

6. Cosmic Evolutionary Optimism. Teilhard de Chardin, a leader in 
New Age thinking, predicts progressive evolution to the point that 
all will become one with the One. 

After building this foundation, Groothuis proceeds through the book, 
describing the historical background of the New Age movement. The author 
finds its roots in the counterculture of the 1950s and 1960s. He clarifies the 
development of the New Age by tracing the contributions of both people and 

Next, the book considers the development of New Age thinking in the 
areas of holistic health, psychology, science, politics, and the new spirituality. 
In a chapter on each, Groothuis demonstrates understanding and balanced 
judgment in evaluating the fermenting influence of New Age thinking. In the 
conclusion of each chapter he offers a biblical point of view. 

In the final chapter, the author not only summarizes his findings, but he 
also brings the New Age movement to account before the essentials of a 
Christian world view. He includes a helpful chart comparing the Secular 
Humanist, New Age, and Christian World Views (p. 167). A methodology for 
witnessing to New Age practitioners forms a fitting conclusion to the book. 

In summary, Groothuis provides a straightforward but nonalarmist 
evaluation of the New Age movement. He documents his writing with exten- 


sive footnoting and references to other works. An annotated section on 
Related Reading will effectively serve those who would pursue a further 
understanding of New Age thinking. 

Paul A. Beals 
Grand Rapids Baptist Seminary 

Confessions of a Theologian: An Autobiography, by Carl F. H. Henry. 
Waco: Word, 1986. Pp. 416. $14.95. Cloth. 

Carl Henry's importance to twentieth century evangelicalism dictated 
that his story had to be written. The church has benefited because he has 
written the story himself. The reader finds that Henry is not an ivory tower 
philosopher/ theologian but a down-to-earth disciple who possesses a lively 
sense of humor and a deep sensitivity for the people of the world. Delightful 
to read, this book lifts the reader to the heights of the successes of this 
leading evangelical thinker, teacher, and writer, and drops him to the depths 
of discouragement by exposing the "family squabbles" that have plagued 
various evangelical enterprises. 

Born to German immigrant parents in New York in 1913, Henry grew up 
among poverty and prejudice — a situation that provided him with a perspec- 
tive on life that many evangelicals have failed to develop. Excelling in school, 
he did not advance as well in his spiritual pilgrimage. Pronounced as regen- 
erate at the time of his baptism, Henry has now written: "I was, in fact, no 
more regenerate than the Long Island telephone directory" (p. 26). The 
reader is introduced to the widow, Mildred Christy (later referred to as 
Mother Christy), who was influential in the Lord's work of conversion in 
Henry's life. He writes that being on the prayer lists of Mrs. Christy, two of 
her friends in Ohio, and believers around him "was like being at the mercy of 
an air assault" (p. 36). 

At the time of his conversion, Henry had distinguished himself as a 
newspaperman. At the age of nineteen, he was the editor of the Smithtown 
Star, a weekly Long Island newspaper. Overtaken by the leading of God to 
prepare for a full-time Christian vocation, Henry enrolled at Wheaton College 
in the fall of 1935. Prominent Wheaton professors such as Henry C. Thiessen 
and Gordon H. Clark are described from the perspective of a student. Among 
his extra-curricular activities, the young student-newspaperman and part- 
time typing teacher courted one of his students, Helga Bender, who was to 
become Mrs. Henry. The indefatigable persistence that characterized his 
future ministry was demonstrated in the courtship. An example of the humor 
interspersed throughout the book is found in a footnote: "At Helga's inter- 
vention, to spare them possible embarrassment, I have not named others of 
the fair sex whom I dated at Wheaton. But I wish nonetheless to indicate my 
appreciation to Wheaton lasses who added zest and luster to those campus 
days" (p. 78). 

While pursuing further education at Northern Baptist Theological 
Seminary, Henry entered the ministry of teaching. He had been active in a 


variety of Christian ministries at Wheaton and in seminary. Of special sig- 
nificance was his involvement with the National Association of Evangelicals. 
Henry was enticed to leave Northern Baptist to assist in establishing an 
evangelical seminary in the west. Fuller Theological Seminary. Henry pre- 
sents the story of the founding and problems of that institution as an insider 
who saw clearly initial needs as well as the perilous steps taken later with 
regard to biblical inerrancy. While a Fuller professor, he assisted in the 
founding of the Evangelical Theological Society. 

From Fuller, Henry moved to take a position as founding editor of 
Christianity Today. Using his skills as a theologian and a newspaperman, 
Henry brought the periodical to a place of preeminence among evangelical 
publications. Founded as an alternative to the liberal slant of Christian 
Century, Christianity Today soon surpassed that publication in circulation. 
At the same time, he found himself in conflict with the views of some who 
were not happy with his editorial approach. Board member and Sun Oil 
leader, J. Howard Pew, was a constant critic. Pew planned to give strong 
financial backing to the magazine but, in turn, wished to have the right to 
inspect advance proofs of the periodical. Faced with difficult financial straits, 
Henry whimsically thought: "God owned the cattle on a thousand hills no 
less than the oil that Sunoco pumped" (p. 168). The behind the scenes conflict 
at Christianity Today ended for Henry after more than a decade of service 
with his being "terminated" in bumbling fashion. 

Henry describes his short term of service at Eastern Baptist Theological 
Seminary with an assessment of problems at that institution. Having left that 
school, he became lecturer-at-large for World Vision. He describes world 
travels and ministry resulting from that position. Throughout the book, the 
author's experiences with Christians worldwide are described, including the 
moving account of meeting with believers in communist Europe. Henry 
concludes, "These devout workers in Marxist lands reminded me of Paul's 
observation to the Corinthians, 'having nothing, and yet possessing every- 
thing'" (p. 319). His travels to the orient for World Vision deepen our 
understanding of the state of the church in that part of the world. 

The last chapter is entitled "The Evangelical Prospect in America." It 
includes a discussion of nine observations about the contemporary scene and 
exhibits the great insight that has become a hallmark of the work of Carl 

The book moves at a good pace and is diflScult to put down. The reader 
might get bogged down in Henry's travels, but most of the descriptions 
include helpful discussions regarding God's servants in these lands. One less- 
than-satisfying chapter is "A Workaholic's Sabbatical." Here, Henry records 
his contacts with many of the prominent names in European theology, but 
little is written about these meetings. However, articles in Christianity Today 
and the subsequent book. Frontiers in Modern Theology, present discussions 
of those encounters in some detail. Henry includes accounts of the World 
Congress of Evangelism at Berlin in 1966 and Key 73, along with other 
events. There is some repetition (compare pages 174 and 219). The index to 
the book consists of names of persons. Additional indexes would have 
enhanced the book. 


Autobiographies can be stimulating, provocative, informative, and 
inspirational reading material. Confessions of a Theologian is all of these in 
its unveiling of the life and mind of one of the most significant of God's 
servants in the twentieth century. 

Ronald T. Clutter 
Grace Theological Seminary 

Evangelical Theology: A Survey and Review, by Robert P. Lightner. Grand 
Rapids: Baker, 1986. Pp. 303. $15.95. Cloth. 

In the future, the 1980s may well be regarded as a key decade for the 
publication of comprehensive systematic theologies by American evangelicals. 
While the 1970s produced some significant works (M. Wynkoop, J. Boice, 
D. Bloesch, the revised H. Thiessen, and the first four volumes of Carl 
Henry's magnum opus), it has been in the 80s that evangelical systematic 
theology has come of age. Henry's six volumes now stand complete. Major 
sets have appeared or are in process from J. Cottrell, M. Erickson, B. 
Demarest and G. Lewis, T. Finger, and T. Oden. Wesleyans have produced a 
two-volume set edited by C. Carter, R. Thompson, and C. Wilson. The 
Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, Beacon Dictionary of Theology, and 
Dictionary of Latin and Greek Theological Terms have also been produced. 
Boice's and Erickson's theologies are now available in one volume editions. 
And, D. Moody, J. Davis, J. Lawson, and C. Ryrie have produced handy 
and helpful introductions. 

Now Lightner has made a worthwhile contribution. The volume is written 
for evangelicals and "is intended for classroom use in Christian liberal arts 
and Bible colleges where surveys of doctrine are taught." The author feels 
that his work will also "fill a need on the seminary level as a review of 
systematic theology," and will be useful to busy pastors and other Christian 
workers for "brushing up" on their theology (p. 2). It is important to under- 
stand Lightner's goal, which is not to write a systematic theology per se, but 
to whet the reader's appetite for further study and to encourage theological 

In light of this stated audience and goal. Evangelical Theology is a 
success. It would probably not be ideal as an unassisted layperson's introduc- 
tion to systematic theology, for it does not enter into argumentation enough 
to clarify the strengths and weaknesses of varying positions. But in the 
classroom, where the material can be expanded, explained, and discussed, the 
book can be helpful. 

The basic areas of systematic theology are covered in nine chapters. 
What is refreshing and somewhat unique about the work is its approach. 
Each chapter, after a brief introduction, has three main parts: a historical 
perspective, a basic statement of the doctrine, and major areas of difference 
among evangelicals. At the end of each chapter are a few paragraphs of 
application, questions for discussion, and bibliographical suggestions for fur- 
ther study. Notes are at the foot of each page, and there are in some chapters 


useful charts, lists and diagrams. The indexes (names, subjects, and scripture) 
add to the value of the work. 

While Lightner's historical overviews are generally well done, in places 
they are too brief to be helpful. For example, the contributions of John 
Owen, Abraham Kuyper, J. N. Darby, and William Kelly in the area of 
pneumatology are all considered within eleven lines (pp. 106-7)! And Mar- 
cion, Montanus, and Donatus are mentioned briefly under ecclesiology as 
agreeing that the church needed reform, but there is no subsequent develop- 
ment of their positions (p. 220). 

The author's viewpoint is somewhere in the middle of traditional dis- 
pensationalism. His material is more than an outline, yet less than a full 
exposition. There is little exegesis. Lightner usually puts scripture references 
in parentheses after stating each point, or refers in a footnote to some work 
which the reader may consult for a fuller discussion. These procedures, while 
understandable in light of the author's space limitations and purpose, may be 
somewhat frustrating for the reader. It is difficult at times to see how the 
scriptures teach the indicated doctrine, as when Lightner concludes that "holy 
angels abide in the second heaven but have access to the presence of God in 
third heaven" (p. 135). As for the many places where Lightner depends on a 
footnote instead of developing a key point (e.g., pp. 95, 209 nn. 14, 214), the 
reader may not have ready access to the suggested works. 

The most interesting aspect of the book concerns the major areas of 
diff"erence among evangelicals. In these matters Lightner presents the views 
fairly and clearly. For the most part he chooses areas that have been tradi- 
tional centers of debate. Under theology proper, for example, he considers 
the classification of God's attributes, the knowledge of God, and the Calvinist- 
Arminian debate over God's purposes (he describes himself as a "moderate 
Calvinist"). Unfortunately he does not consider the infiltration of the thinking 
behind Process Theology into evangelical views of God. While he does not 
always make his own view known (as when considering the relation between 
the human and divine attributes of Christ or the conditionality of election), 
he usually does reveal his stand to the reader. On the value of Christ's life 
sufferings, he holds to a "non-atoning" view as opposed to the vicarious 
substitutionary view of Reformed theology. In addition, Lightner advocates 
the position that Christ was not able to sin. The sign-gifts were for the first 
generation of Christians only. Christians cannot be demon-possessed, and the 
ability to exorcise demons is not available today. 

At times he feels that both sides of an issue are needed to present the 
biblical teaching, as when he considers dichotomy and trichotomy, and the 
federal and seminal views of Adam. On the immaterial nature of human 
beings, he is a traducianist, and appears to prefer Buswell's view of the imago 
Dei as both constitutional and functional. He holds to a universal atonement. 
On the question "must Christ be Lord to be Savior?" he leans to a "no" 
answer, but then states that "no one can become a child of God unless he 
fully intends to serve and obey Christ" (p. 213, emphasis added). The section 
on the debate over sanctification (Reformed versus Keswick) is much too 
condensed to be helpful. On ecclesiology he argues cogently against Land- 
markists and others who deny the reality of the universal Church. He sees the 


Church as having begun at Pentecost, holds to congregational government, 
and does not see a plurality of elders as being necessary in every local church. 
His eschatology is, of course, premillennial and pretribulational. 

Many evangelicals will object that the title of the book is inaccurate, 
since there is little interaction with major evangelical thinkers of the 1980s 
(the author leans most heavily on Hodge, Warfield, Berkhof, Chafer, Wal- 
voord, and Ryrie). Others will be disappointed that there is no interaction 
with current non-evangelical trends such as Process and Liberation Theolo- 
gies. While admitting the validity of these criticisms, we should remember the 
word "review" in Lightner's subtitle. The foundation Lightner lays herein will 
be useful in pointing students to those scripture texts and theological con- 
cepts which in any generation form the core of Christian faith. 

Robert V. Rakestraw 
Criswell College 

In Pursuit of Purity, by David O. Beale. Greenville, S.C: Unusual Publica- 
tions, 1986. Pp. xvi + 457. $15.95. Cloth. $12.95. Paper. 

Whereas most recent publications have focused on the fundamentalism 
of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Beale's contribution traces the 
movement from what he concludes to be its roots in the 1850s down to the 
present. He not only has sought to present a survey history but also has 
propagandized for a particular type of fundamentalism. Thus this book must 
be contrasted to The Fundamentalist Phenomenon, edited by Jerry Falwell. 
Beale contends for a separatist, militant fundamentalism identified with the 
post- 1930 state of the movement. Falwell's work espouses the pre-1930 non- 
separatist attitude. 

The primary focus for Beale is separation. He writes "Today, one may 
vigorously uphold the traditional fundamentals and still fall far short of 
actually being a fundamentalist" (p. 7). He clarifies: 

In both the Hebrew and Greek languages, the word holiness, or sanctification, 
carries the basic idea of separation. The positive side of separation is the 
concept of biblical fellowship. Progressively, Fundamentalism came to empha- 
size that the Scriptures clearly teach certain crheria for true Christian fellowship. 
They now regard the doctrine of biblical fellowship as fundamental, inherently 
part of the doctrine of God's absolute holiness — separation (sanctification) from 
the world, from false religion, and from every practice of disobedience to the 
Scriptures [p. 6]. 

In Beale's opinion the "new evangelicals" have "forsaken the doctrine of 
biblical holiness and the practice of ecclesiastical purity" which are "trade- 
marks of Fundamentalism" (p. 10). At this point, one is confronted with an 
apologetic emphasis like that of George Dollar's A History of Fundamen- 
talism in America, though Beale does not reflect the Baptist bias of Dollar. 
Beale asserts as Dollar did: "The only true Fundamentalist is the fighting 
Fundamentalist" (p. 357). 

Beale's contribution does serve as a helpful survey of the origin and 
development of the movement. The author has supplied information on the 


prayer meeting revivals and Bible conferences, which he regards as the roots 
of fundamentalism. Participants and titles of particular messages at some 
conference meetings are given. Pictures of some early speakers enhance the 
appeal of this section. 

Beale then turns from examining the roots of one movement to the 
development and impact of another — liberalism. He describes various re- 
sponses to liberal theological influence, especially as the liberal/ fundamen- 
talist conflict progressed within Presbyterian and Baptist churches where the 
issues were fought with the greatest tenacity. The final section of the book 
focuses upon the development of separatist fundamentalism and the present 
state of the movement. 

A survey of the many footnotes and the bibliography brings an apprecia- 
tion for the author's awareness of the material on tne subject. He has not 
written out of the vacuum in which fundamentalists are sometimes thought to 
exist. The appendices are helpful additions to a well-written, easily under- 
standable book. 

However, the work is marred by questionable assertions and inaccuracies. 
In the index there are nine page-references listed for Grace Brethren. In 
turning to those pages, the reader finds that on only two occasions do the 
texts refer to the Grace Brethren. Four of the references are to the Plymouth 
Brethren, and one each to the Church of the Brethren, "English Brethren," 
and the Evangelical United Brethren, the latter mistakenly identified as "the 
United Evangelical Brethren" (p. 311). Augustus H. Strong is said to be 
remembered for his concordance and his systematic theology when it was 
James Strong who produced the concordance. Bernard Ramm is declared to 
have embraced and defended the theology of Karl Barth though Ramm puts 
distance between himself and Barth in After Fundamentalism, to which Beale 
refers (p. 266). Clark Pinnock is classed as a "new evangelical convert to 
liberalism" (p. 267). Though Pinnock's writings may perplex some evangeli- 
cals, he is not a liberal. Presbyterians of a former era, Charles R. Erdman, 
Frederick W. Loetscher and J. Ritchie Smith are identified as "tolerant of the 
new liberalizing trends of the day" (p. 166), a charge which they strongly 
denied. J. Ross Stevenson is said to have been a champion for the Plan of 
Organic Union but, in fact, he opposed it when his presbytery was called 
upon to vote on the issue. 

The Bob Jones perspective is reflected throughout the work with the 
university and the name often mentioned. Such references are understandable 
in light of the influence of the family and the school upon fundamentalism, 
but it is this reviewer's conclusion that there seems to be too much emphasis 
on the Bob Jones contribution. Why was an entire chapter given to Ian 
Paisley's Free Presbyterian Church in Ireland and only a few lines to the 
ministry of John R. Rice and The Sword of the Lordl 

In conclusion, this book is a helpful and readable contribution to the 
subject from a particular viewpoint. With its inaccuracies and questionable 
categorizations it also reveals some of the weaknesses of the militant-separatist 
mindset that it seeks to promote. 

Ronald T. Clutter 
Grace Theological Seminary 


Beyond Hunger: A Biblical Mandate for Social Responsibility, by Art Beals. 
Portland: Multnomah, 1985. Pp. 225. $11.95. Cloth 

Art Beals wants American Christians to understand and to feel the 
ravages of Third World hunger and deprivation. He wants American Chris- 
tians to aid other human beings in need, both because they are emotionally 
moved to do so and because their faith mandates such help. 

Beals encourages something he calls Christian development — "a process 
that enables people to consider, choose, and implement alternatives for their 
lives that are consistent with God's intention for mankind" (p. 87). He 
believes this approach goes beyond "rehef " or rescuing, to "development" or 

This approach involves a more efficient use of Christian resources, exer- 
cising a better stewardship. In fact, Beals believes a right perspective on 
faithful stewardship inexorably leads one to a desire to share worldly 
possessions — not hoard them as many Western Christians are so prone to do. 
In Beals's words, "if the sense of community with the world-wide 'household 
of faith' is lost, the essential character of the Church becomes violated. A 
Western Christian church enjoying its affluence in a world where large com- 
munities of believers live in absolute poverty is a scandal to the gospel — a 
denial of our oneness in Christ" (p. 201). 

Beals's work fits into a growing body of evangelical development litera- 
ture wrestling with the complexities of directed social change. Although most 
evangelicals remain committed to personal evangelism as the most effective 
"tool" for social transformation, many now recognize that more can, and 
perhaps should, be done to the glory of God. For many, the question is not 
so much whether evangelical social activity should be encouraged, but how 
much and what kind? Theological issues are raised in this debate because 
answers to such questions depend upon one's view of the nature of evil, 
hermeneutics, the Kingdom of God (eschatology), and soteriology. 

Beals should be commended for avoiding the subtle temptation to over- 
state his case by stretching theological boundaries. For instance, he argues 
that social responsibility goes hand-in-hand with evangelism. But he backs 
away from claiming social action is the gospel, as many contemporary evan- 
gelical authors claim. Nor does he gloss over the reality of sin and evil in the 
world. Beals expresses a certain optimism in his title, "Beyond Hunger." 
But he recognizes the need for continual self-evaluation and diligence. All 
would-be social reformers must acknowledge the possibility that "today's 
liberators will become tomorrow's oppressors" (p. 120). 

Although he never uses the term, Beals encourages "tentmaking" in 
overseas "redemptive communities." By using this method. Christians may 
reach the lost in otherwise closed settings. For Beals, there are no closed 
doors, only closed minds blind to new approaches and opportunities. 

The book's strength is at the same time its primary weakness. Although 
the text is loaded with illustrations drawn from Beals's rich and varied 
experience, the sequential stories eventually create a choppy style that is 
difficult to read. One illustration blurs into the next. More importantly, the 
book fails to live up to its subtitle. More space is clearly given to an appeal to 
the reader's emotions than to any rationally developed understanding of the 


biblical text. As helpful as Beals's stories are, the number of them detracts 
from his purpose. The reader would be better served by a more balanced 

Beals errs by identifying linear interpretations of human history solely 
with classical liberalism, and by rejecting linear views of history as non- 
Christian. He complicates his mistake further by embracing an eastern rise 
and fall or cyclical interpretation. Although his point is a good one — that one 
needs to be aware of both good and evil — his choice of interpretive paradigm 
is faulty. Scripture does assign a teleology to human history and rejects any 
meaningless, cyclical understanding of life. As Beals says, history is not a 
steady progression toward the "good life" in the now. But history is a divinely 
ordained movement, with both "wheat" and "tares," toward God's resolution. 
To teach otherwise is to deny God's sovereignty. 

Academic audiences will find Beals's work a bit frustrating in another 
way. Statistics and quotations are freely used throughout, but no documenta- 
tion is provided. Terms are sometimes loosely used. What, for example, is a 
"world economic system"? Beals refers to it but never defines it. 

Shortcomings notwithstanding, the book is worthwhile. Loving one's 
neighbor is at the heart of the Christian ethic. Perhaps Beals's most notable 
contribution is to leave the reader with a developed sense of neighborhood. 
People are dying — physically and spiritually — the world over. American 
Christendom needs the dose of reality Beals prescribes. And the world needs 
the energy, resources, and compassion of American Christendom. 

Rex M. Rogers 
Cedarville College 

Anthropological Insights for Missionaries, by Paul G. Hiebert. Grand Rapids: 
Baker, 1985. Pp. 315. $13.95. Paper. 

Anthropological Insights for Missionaries combines basic anthropology 
with missionary experience to transport the foreign mission candidate step- 
by-step from home through culture shock to concerns over retirement. This 
cross-cultural manual is written by a veteran as "an attempt to provide young 
missionaries with some basic tools for understanding other cultures and for 
understanding themselves as they enter these cultures" (p. 10). Hiebert draws 
upon his own background in India as well as from other "Two-Thirds 
World" cultures to illustrate concepts and anthropological terms. For instance, 
ethnocentrism (judging another culture to be inferior to one's own culture) 
works both ways. While some North Americans perceive eating with one's 
fingers as crude and dirty, an Indian would note that he washes his hand 
carefully before eating, never places his fingers in anyone else's mouth, and 
never eats with a fork which has been in the mouths of strangers. 

One of the major contributions of this volume is its exposure of North 
American worldviews and their effects upon Western thinking. Neo-Platonism, 
materialism, the right of private ownership, individualism, equality, the em- 
phasis upon youth, and quantification are some of the assumptions examined. 
They are not analyzed from a scriptural perspective, but from a sociological 


and cross-cultural point of view. People in more traditional cultures simply 
think differently about these matters, a fact that has implications for cross- 
cultural communications. Readers are introduced to variations in symbol 
systems, use of gestures, the significance of time and space, and the social 
important of factors such as age, gender, and status. Societal concerns take 
into account the missionary community; church-mission structures; first-, 
second-, and third-generation missionaries; the national community; and the 
relationship between national leaders and the national community. 

Hiebert writes as a social scientist who is sympathetic to the cause of 
world missions, and not as a theologian. This is acknowledged in the preface. 
The author does refer, however, to "a transcultural theology that transcends 
cultural differences — a metatheology that compares theologies, explores the 
cultural biases of each, and seeks to find biblical universals" (p. 217). Expos- 
ing the cultural "blind spots" of Western, Latin American, or Indian theology 
from another cultural perspective can be beneficial, but correction and ac- 
curate theology ultimately come from exposure to the Scriptures alone. 
The application of truth may vary from culture to culture, but the biblical 
universals can be discerned only through examination of the biblical text. 
Hiebert does acknowledge the centrality of Scripture as the first test of truth 
(p. 202), and he recognizes that all human understanding and man-made 
theologies are fiawed. 

Theological distinctions aside, Hiebert makes a valuable contribution to 
the field of missiology. The work is well documented with a helpful bibli- 
ography to assist in additional reading. The general reader who wishes to be 
informed on the ramifications of the current missionary outreach to non- 
Western cultures will benefit from this book. 

Robert G. Parr 
Cedarville College 

Introducing the Sermon, by Michael J. Hostetler. The Craft of Preaching. 
Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1986. Pp. 89. $5.95. Paper. 

This slender volume is a contribution to The Craft of Preaching series 
begun recently by Zondervan 's Ministry Resource Library. Its compactness, 
affordability, and readability are indications that Zondervan is seriously 
pursuing a wide audience for the series. 

The perennial evangelical interest in preaching is demonstrated by the 
publication of a large number of books on homiletics. Thus, one might think 
that virtually every aspect of the sermonic enterprise has suffered from 
overexposure, especially an element as visible as the introduction. 

Not so, says author Hostetler: "In spite of their insistence on the intro- 
duction's importance, the major texts devote precious little space to it" 
(p. 12). He says, therefore, "Clearly, sermon introductions deserve a closer 
look" (p. 12). 

Throughout the book, the author exhibits his firm conviction that, "In 
many ways, the introduction is the most important part of sermon delivery" 
(p. 11). This is true because "Exposition is the preacher's great work, but if 


the introduction falters, the exposition may never be heard" (p. 12). Whether 
or not the reader will agree with such statements, this is the premise on which 
the rest of the argument is built; it is a homiletical necessity to cultivate "The 
Art of Compelling Beginnings" (the book's subtitle). 

Introducing the Sermon contains eight chapters and a brief conclusion. 
In chap. 1, "The Palm of Your Hand" (pp. 11-15), the writer makes his case 
for the importance of the sermon introduction and briefly addresses such 
questions as "What's the purpose of the introduction?" "Is an introduction 
always needed?" and "How long should the introduction be?" Then chap. 2, 
"Make Contact" (pp. 17-26), leads in to the rest of the book by laying out the 
four "contact points" of a good introduction: (1) the secular (or "life experi- 
ence"), (2) the biblical, (3) the personal, and (4) the structural (p. 17). 

Chaps. 3 and 4, "Start with the Secular" (pp. 27-39) and "Spice Up the 
Secular" (pp. 41-47) respectively, handle the first contact point, giving special 
attention to the opening sentence and the need for detail. The next two 
chapters, "Move to the Word" (pp. 49-57) and "Link with the Sermon 
Series" (pp. 59-66), develop the "biblical" point of contact, first with the 
immediate text and then in its place, if appropriate, in a wider series of 
sermons. Chap. 7, "Touch Home" (pp. 67-75), deals with the "personal" 
contact point, needed because "every person who listens to the sermon wants 
to know what it means for his or her life" (p. 75). Finally, chap. 8, "Build a 
Bridge" (pp. 78-83), has to do with the "structural" connection between the 
introduction and body of the sermon. The "Conclusion" (pp. 85-86) urges the 
disciplined use of all four contact points and offers a few closing suggestions 
for developing better sermon introductions. 

All in all, this is a refreshing and helpful book, especially for the 
beginning student and the busy preacher. Its theory, stated concisely in 
chap. 2, is simple and concrete. There are numerous illustrations spread 
throughout the text that show "how to" every step along the way. Such fea- 
tures argue eloquently for this volume's place on the conscientious expositor's 

However, this effective tool could have been improved. A Scripture 
Index and, perhaps, a Subject Index would have been of real value. Also, 
some discussion of the place and work of the Holy Spirit in this process 
would have made it less "mechanical." As it is, there is only one passing 
reference to the Spirit (p. 75). This is in marked contrast to Lloyd-Jones's 
Preaching and Preachers, which concludes with a chapter entitled "Demon- 
stration of the Spirit and Power," and the more recent Toward an Exe- 
getical Theology, by W. Kaiser, the final stanza of which is "The Exegete/ 
Pastor and the Power of God." 

One other point: having published Introducing the Sermon, it is now 
incumbent upon Zondervan to make available a suitable text on sermon 
conclusions. This is especially true if there is any validity to Kaiser's claim 
that Evangelicals have recently "overindulged ourselves in the art of intro- 
ducing texts and messages" to the detriment of the "clearly-thought-out 
conclusion" (rowart^ an Exegetical Theology, p. 163). 

A. Boyd Luter, Jr. 
Christ Presbyterian Church, San Antonio 


Retelling the Biblical Story: The Theology and Practice of Narrative 
Preaching, by H. Stephen Shoemaker. Nashville: Broadman, 1985. Pp. 180. 
n.p. Paper. 

H. Stephen Shoemaker gathers sixteen of his sermons to illustrate his 
approach to the kind of sermonizing usually labeled "narrative preaching." 
He introduces the collection with a sermon on what he calls the Biblical 
Story, "the Story of God's way with us and our way with God," and con- 
cludes the book with a chapter presenting his theology of preaching and a few 
suggestions concerning the preparation of narrative sermons. Between Intro- 
duction and Conclusion there are sermons on eleven OT saints, two NT 
believers, and an example of the narrative approach applied to the book of 

Shoemaker understands preaching to be "the telling of the Biblical 
Story." He affirms that preaching's purpose is to "help the hearer meet the 
God of the Bible and Jesus Christ, who has shown us God's face, and having 
met them, to follow in faith and obedience." Preaching's task, then, is to 
"recreate the biblical world in vividness and truth ... so that the hearer is 
beckoned to enter it and, as an inhabitant of that world, a child of God, and 
a disciple of Jesus Christ, to live in God's 'righteousing' power and Jesus' 
power of love" (148). 

Shoemaker contends that most of today's preaching follows one of two 
models: "Preacher Directed" or "Hearer Centered." In the former, the 
preacher directs attention to himself, assuming that people learn best by 
hearing a testimony of another's experience of truth in his life. The "con- 
fessional preaching" of John R. Claypool illustrates this model. The latter 
model turns the attention to the hearer, and the preacher becomes either 
"Angry Father or Sensitive Pastor." There is much preaching that fits the 
"Angry Father" model today, preaching that uses guilt as the major motiva- 
tional appeal in a context filled with "you ought." The "Sensitive Pastor" is 
exemplified by Harry Emerson Fosdick in his "life-situational" preaching. 
Discounting both of these models as inadequate. Shoemaker presents a third 
model, which he labels "Recreating the Biblical World." In this model, 
emphasis is on neither the preacher nor the congregation, but on the story of 
God's work in the world and man's response to it, and the preacher becomes 
the storyteller. The approach, illustrated by the sermons in the book, tends to 
use the biographical material of a whole life for one sermon, drawing general 
truths from that life, but giving no portion of it any close scrutiny. 

There are advantages to Shoemaker's narrative style of preaching. 
Whether or not the reader agrees with Shoemaker's theology of preaching, he 
will find fresh ways to express biblical truth. In addition. Shoemaker's 
footnotes introduce many helps to better narrative preaching; e.g., Frederick 
Buechner, Peculiar Treasures; Fred B. Craddock, Overhearing the Gospel: 
Preaching and Teaching the Faith to People Who Have Already Heard; and 
Alan Culpepper, Anatomy of the Fourth Gospel. 

Shoemaker's book may provide the stimulus needed to attempt added 
variety in one's preaching. Moreover, it illustrates how that can be accom- 
plished. That alone makes it worthwhile reading. 

David F. Colman 
Grand Rapids Baptist Seminary 


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Counselor's Casebook, 1974. Pp. 213. $7.95. Paper. The Christian Counselor's 
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Combines Truth Apparent and Preaching to the Heart, 1983. Pp. 100 + 35. $7.95. 
Paper. Essays on Counseling, 1983. Pp. 265. $9.95. Papei. Handbook of Church 
Discipline, 1986. Pp. 120. $6.96. Paper. How to Help People Change: The Four- 
Step Biblical Process, 1986. Pp. 203. $7.97. Paper. Insight & Creativity in Chris- 
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Religion's Rebel Son: Fanaticism in Our Time. Portland: Multnomah, 1986. 

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the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, 1986. Pp. 135. $4.95. Paper. 

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The Atonement. Jefferson, Md.: The Trinity Foundation, 1987. Pp. 181. $8.95. 


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Counseling Those with Eating Disorders. Resources for Christian Counseling, 

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Cook, David. Thinking About Faith. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1986. Pp. 220. $8.95. 

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Chinese. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 1986. Pp. 285. $14.95. Paper. 
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Zondervan, 1974. Pp. 308. n.p. Cloth. 
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Dennison, Charles G. and Richard C. Gamble, eds. Pressing Toward the Mark. Essays 

Commemorating Fifty Years of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. Coraopolis, 

Pa.: Committee for the Historian of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, 1986. 

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Dieter, Melvin E., Anthony A. Hoekema, Stanley M. Horton, J. Robertson McQuilkin, 

and John F. Walvoord. Five Views on Sanctification. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 

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516. n.p. Cloth. 
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Earle, Ralph. Word Meanings in the New Testament. One Volume Edition. Grand 

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1986. Pp. 187. n.p. Cloth. 
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Theology. The History of Christian Theology, vol. 1. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 

1986. Pp. 363. $14.95. Paper. 

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False Values. Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1987. Pp. 154. $5.95. Paper. 

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Gage, Joy P. Every Woman's Privilege. Portland: Multnomah, 1986. Pp. 126. $6.95. 

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Baptist Perspective. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1987. Pp. 220. $10.95. Paper. 
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Granberg-Michaelson, Wesley, ed. Tending the Garden: Essays on the Gospel and the 

Earth. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1987. Pp. 150. $7.95. Paper. 
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for Faith- Discipline Integration. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1987. Pp. 339. $19.95. 

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View, vol. 1. Phillipsburg: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1986. Pp. 360. $14.95. 

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Zondervan, 1986. Pp. 64. $4.95. Paper. 
Howard, David M. What Makes a Missionary. Chicago: Moody, 1987. Pp. 96. $5.95. 

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phers. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1986. Pp. 56. n.p. Paper. 
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. Quality Living: Ecclesiastes Expanded for Group and Personal Study. Chicago: 

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Toward Rediscovering The Old Testament. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1987. 

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and the Epistles of John. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1986. Pp. 425. $18.95. Cloth. 
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Kobobel, Janet L. "But Can She Type?": Overcoming Stereotypes in the Workplace. 

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Lewis, Gordon R. and Bruce A. Demarest. Integrative Theology: Volume One - 

Knowing Ultimate Reality, The Living God. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1987. Pp. 

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Lloyd-Jones, D. Martyn. Romans: The Gospel of God — An Exposition of Chapter 1. 

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Twentieth Century. Phillipsburg: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1986. Pp. 480. 

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and Management in the Church. Waco: Word, 1986. Pp. 207. Cloth. 
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Maarsingh, B. Numbers: Text and Interpretation: A Practical Commentary. Grand 

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to D. B. Knox. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1986. Pp. 422. n.p. Cloth. 
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Ruegsegger, Ronald W. Reflections on Francis Schaeffer. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 

1986. Pp. 320. n.p. Paper. 
Ryken, Leland. Worldly Saints: The Puritans As They Really Were. Grand Rapids: 

Zondervan, 1986. Pp. 281. $14.95. Cloth. 
Saxby, Trevor J. Pilgrims of a Common Life. Scottdale, PA: Herald, 1987. Pp. 207. $17.95. 

Schock, Bernie. Parents, Kids & Sports. Chicago: Moody, 1987. Pp. 172. $6.95. Paper. 


Sellers, C. Norman. Election and Perseverance. Miami Springs: Schoettle, 1987. Pp. 

193. $12.95. Cloth. 
Sernau, Scott. Please Don't Squeeze the Christian Into the World's Mold. Downers 

Grove: InterVarsity, 1987. Pp. 141. $5.95. Paper. 
Showers, Renald E. The New Nature. Neptune, N.J.: Loizeaux, 1986. Pp. 182. $12.95. 

Smalley, Gary with Al Janssen. Joy that Lasts: How to Have an Overflowing Life. 

Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1986. Pp. 192. $6.95. Paper. 
Steinmetz, David C. Luther in Context. Bloomington: Indiana University, 1986. Pp. 

146. $7.95. Paper. 
Storms, C. Samuel. Chosen for Life: An Introductory Guide to the Doctrine of Divine 

Election. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1987. Pp. 142. $6.95. Paper. 
Stott, John. R. W. Homosexual Partnerships? Why Same-Sex Relationships Are Not a 

Christian Option. Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1985. Pp. 32. $1.95. Paper. 
Marriage and Divorce: When is Divorce Permitted? What About Remarriage? 

What is God's Ideal? Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1985. Pp. 32. $1.95. Paper. 
The Cross of Christ. Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1986. Pp. 383. $14.95. 

Strauss, Lehman. Listen! Our Dying Savior Speaks. Neptune, N.J.: Loizeaux, 1987. 

Pp. 112. $5.95. Paper. 
Strauss, Richard L. Win the Battle for Your Mind. Neptune, N.J.: Loizeaux, 1986. Pp. 

131. $5.95. Paper. 
Strom, Kay Marshall. In the Name of Submission: A Painful Look at Wife Battering. 

Portland: Multnomah, 1986. Pp. 139. n.p. Paper. 
Stuart, Clara. Latimer: Apostle to the English. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1986. Pp. 

352. $15.95. Cloth. 
Swihart, Judson J., and Gerald C. Richardson. Counseling in Times of Crisis. 

Resources for Christian CounseUng, Vol. 7. Waco: Word, 1987. Pp. 210. n.p. 

Swindoll, Charles R. Growing Deep in the Christian Life. Portland: Multnomah, 1986. 

Pp. 440. $14.95. Cloth. 
Thompson, J. A. Handbook of Life in Bible Times. Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 

1986. Pp. 384. $34.95. Cloth. 

Tidball, Derek J. Skillful Shepherds: An Introduction to Pastoral Theology. Grand 

Rapids: Zondervan, 1986. Pp. 368. n.p. Paper. 
Tingle, Donald S. Mormonism: Examining the Fastest Growing Religion in the World. 

Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1981. Pp. 32. $1.95. Paper. 
Tippit, Sammy. Fire in Your Heart: A Call to Personal Holiness. Chicago: Moody, 

1987. Pp. 113. $5.95. Paper. 

Toews, John E. and Gordon Nickel, eds. The Power of the Lamb. Hillsboro, Kans.: 

Kindred, 1986. Pp. 183. $7.95. Paper. 
Toon, Peter. Heaven and Hell. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1986. Pp. 223. $8.95. Paper. 
Born Again: A Biblical and Theological Study of Regeneration. Grand Rapids: 

Baker, 1987. Pp. 206. $8.95. Paper. 
VerhofiF, Pieter A. The Books of Haggai And Malachi. NICOT. Grand Rapids: Eerd- 

mans, 1987. Pp. 364. $21.95. Cloth. 
Villa- Vicencio, Charles. Between Christ and Caesar: Classic and Contemporary Texts 

on Church and State. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1986. Pp. 269. $16.95. Paper. 
Vines, Jerry. A Guide to Effective Sermon Delivery. Chicago: Moody, 1986. Pp. 170. 

n.p. Cloth. 
Watts, John D. W. Isaiah 34-66. Word Biblical Commentary, vol. 25. Waco: Word 

Books, 1987. Pp. 385. n.p. Cloth. 


Webster, Douglas D. A Passion for Christ: An Evangelical Christology. Grand Rapids: 

Zondervan, 1987. Pp. 221. n.p. Cloth. 
Whitcomb, John C. The Early Earth. Revised edition; Grand Rapids: Baker, 1986. Pp. 

174. $8.95. Paper. 
White, John. Putting the Soul Back in Psychology. Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 

1987. Pp. 93. $4.95. Paper. 
White, Ronald C, Jr., Louis B. Weeks, and Garth M. Resell, eds. American Chris- 
tianity: A Case Approach. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1986. Pp. 188. $11.95. 

Wilson, Earl D. A Silence to be Broken: Hope for Those Caught in the Web of Incest. 

Portland: Multnomah, 1986. Pp. 139. $6.95. Paper. 
Counseling and Guilt. Resources for Christian Counseling, Vol. 8. Waco, TX: 

Word, 1987. Pp. 212. n.p. Cloth. 
Wilson, Esther F. Renewed Vision: Missions Programming in the Local Church. 

Schaumburg, 111.: Regular Baptist, 1984. Revised. Pp. 166. $4.95. Paper. 
Wood, Leon J. A Survey of Israel's History. Revised and enlarged edition; Grand 

Rapids: Zondervan, 1986. Pp. 416 + 16 maps. n.p. Cloth. 
Wright, David. Wisdom as a Lifestyle: Building Biblical Life-Codes. Grand Rapids: 

Zondervan, 1987. Pp. 151. $6.96. Paper. 
Yamamori, Tetsunao. God's New Envoys: A Bold Strategy for Penetrating "Closed 

Countries." Portland: Multnomah, 1987. Pp. 190, $7.95. Paper. 
Youngblood, Ronald, ed. The Genesis Debate: Persistent Questions about Creation 

and the Flood. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1986. Pp. 250. $14.95. Paper. 
Ziefle, Helmut W. Theological German: A Reader. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1986. Pp. 

283. $14.95. Paper. 
Zunkel, C. Wayne. Church Growth Under Fire. Scottdale, PA: Herald, 1987. Pp. 250. 

$8.95. Paper. 



Appealing Cults in Central Africa: A Scriptural Perspective, Thomas A. 

The Effect of Organizational Structure and Demographics on Administrative 

Stress, Robert A. Cummins. 


The Biblical Doctrine of Sex, Christopher A. Hay. 

The Biblical Use of "Fire" as it Relates to Purification and Judgment, Glenna 

The Chronicler's Hymn: 1 Chronicles 16:8-36, Rex L. Swihart, Jr. 
The Chronology of the Genealogies of Genesis Five and Eleven: A Her- 

meneutical Inquiry, Terry Ray Daniels. 
A Comparison of the Decrees of Artaxerxes' 20th Year and Cyrus' First Year 

as the Beginning Point of Daniel's Seventy Weeks, David Larson. 
The Extent of the Atonement in 1 Timothy 4:10, Virgil Yehnert. 
Jehovah's Witnesses' Eschatology: A Brief History of their Prophetic Failures, 

Micheal T. Lynch. 
Literary Analysis in the Book of Genesis, David A. Lord. 
Luther's Confrontation with Roman Church Doctrine, Jay A. Johnson. 
The Meaning and Significance of "Testing" in the Pentateuch, Randal T. 

A Proper Approach to Christian Rock, Timothy S. Andrus. 
The Servant and the Spirit in Isaiah 48:16, Leroy Davis. 
Slander and its Implications: A Study of James 4:11-12, Bryan Luckenbaugh. 
Walking as Christ Walked: The Essence of Christian Living, William L. 



An Analysis of the Teaching of the Virgin Mary's Co-redemptive Work with 

Christ, David S. Black. 
A Critique of Amillennialism and a Presentation of the Dispensational Pre- 

millennial View of Eschatology, James A. Millican. 
A Harmony of the Chronology of the Divided Monarchy, Albert H. M. Ong. 
A Historical and Scriptural Survey of the Doctrine of Illumination with 

Application to Hermeneutics, Jeff Ingle. 
Moral and Ethical Responsibilities of Biblical Teaching, Ed Glasscock. 
The New Testament Doctrine of Eternal Punishment, Paul M. Biggers. 


A Selective Hebrew Word Bibliography and Index with an Essay on the 

Word shalom, James A. Coakley, Mark A. Penfold, and Julius Wong 

Loi Sing. 
Thessalonican Church Planting Perspectives: The Team, the Target, and the 

Time, Ronald Furst. 
The Weeping for Tammuz in Ezekiel Eight, Fourteen, and Fifteen, Alan 

Michael Suhany. 


Psalm 74: Studies in Content, Structure, Context, and Meaning, Richard W. 

Books Reviewed 


Baldwin, Joyce G., The Message of Genesis 12-50 (George L. Klein) 291 

Whitcomb, John C, Daniel {DaVid L. Turner) 292 


Bruce, F. F., The Letter of Paul to the Romans: An Introduction and Com- < 

mentary, (David L. Turner) 293 ] 

Gruenler, Royce Gordon, The Trinity in the Gospel of John: A Thematic .; 

Commentary on the Fourth Goipe/ (Robert J. Delia Valle) 294 

Erickson, Millard J., Christian Theology (David S. Dockery) 295 < 


Groothuis, Douglas R., Unmasking the New Age (Paul A. Bcals) 297 i 

Henry, Carl F. H., Confessions of a Theologian: An Autobiography (Ronald > 

T. Clutter) 298 I 

LiGHTNER, Robert P., Evangelical Theology: A Survey and Review (Robert V. 

Rakestraw) 300 


Beale, David C, In Pursuit of Purity (RonM T. Clutter) 302 


Beals, Art, Beyond Hunger: A Biblical Mandate for Social Responsibility 

(Rex M. Rogers) 304 

HiEBERT, Paul G., Anthropological Insights for Missionaries (Robert G. Parr) 305 

HosTETLER, MiCHAEL, J., Introducing the Sermon (A. Boyd Luter, Jr.) 306 

Shoemaker, H. Stephen, Retelling the Biblical Story: The Theology and Prac- 
tice of Narrative Preaching {Da\id F. Colman) 308 




SEPT 88